Galang Refugee Museum (EKS Camp Vietnam)
By Escapy Travel
At the end of the Vietnam War in 1957, hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese fled Vietnam seeking asylum in other countries. They went to many parts of the world and some made it to Indonesia by boat. The Indonesian government then, together with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees(UNHCR) built a place to house them in Galang Island.
The Galang Refugee Camp housed an estimated 145,000 refugees during its operational period; from 1979 to 1996 of which there were two camps. The first camp housed new comers who just arrived into the country and have not been approved for resettlement to other countries. Those who have gotten approval were then moved to camp two.
[ Today there are no more refugees living in these camps, but the buildings built all those years ago are still there… ]
Camp two prepared them for life in the new countries that have agreed to give them asylum. In camp two they learned English, and also information of the culture as well as the way of living in countries that they have been approved to go to. All these are done to ensure that refugees lucky enough to receive approval in their new host countries, were ready for their new way of life when they get there.
A depiction on the wall of the museum that tells where the people of Vietnam fled to.
Some of the old building at the site that are no longer in use.
Those who did not get approval from any of the countries would spend the rest of their days here in Camp One. Camp One was home to many. The government together with the UNHCR built long wooden building to house them. Places of worship were built too allowing refugees of different faiths to worship.
Today there are no more refugees living in these camps, but the buildings built all those years ago are still there. Some have been damaged beyond repair, but a good number of them have since been repaired and renovated by the government of Indonesia, allowing visitors to visit them safely and to learn about the lives of the refugees here.
The arch that leads to a church at the museum.
A Buddhist temple at the museum that is still in use.
The first things that visitors see when they arrive at the Galang Refugee Museum are replicas of the boats that the Vietnamese refugees fled Vietnam with and arrive here in Indonesia on. Going in further, visitors will arrive at the camp. Up some steps and one arrives at the buildings that are part of the camp.
There are a lot items on display including the UNHCR or registration cards of some of the refugees who for a brief moment, or even for a long duration of time, called the Galang Refugee Camp, home. On display are also items used day to day by the refugees such as kettles, stoves, books, etc. There are also photos of those who were here, serving somewhat as a memorial to them.
A replica of the boats used by the Vietnamese refugees who arrived here.
A signage at the Galang Vietnamese Museum that acts like a “title” to the place.
The buildings here include an administrative office, a jail cell, long houses where the refugees used to call home, a Youth Centre, a church that is still in used till today, a Buddhist temple that is also still in used, etc. There is also a grave yard here; the final resting place of those who did not make it out of the camp.
When one visits Galang Island Refugee Museum, one gets a sense of how life used to be for the refugees here. One can see and sense the daily struggles of those who used to call this place home. During my visit I felt a feeling of sadness perhaps from the aura or vibe of the place. The old photographs and identity cards stirs up certain emotions, as one feels a personal connection to those whose names and photos stay sitting on these walls.
Old photos of the development and life back in the day at the Galang Refugee Camp.
Visitor learning about the layout of the Galang Refugee Camp.
While doing some research for this article, I came across a group of people from a few countries, who used to be residence here at the Galang Refugee Camp. They kept in touch all these years despite calling different countries home. They shared photos of old friends from the days when they were in camp. They also make trips back here to the Galang Refugee Museum for reunions and to see how the place is. It is touching to read their interactions.
A wall of photos of those who used to call this place home.
Some of the Identity Cards of those who once lived here in the camp.
The Galang Island Refugee Museum also called the Ex-Vietnamese Camp” Museum is definitely a place one must visit when one comes to Batam Island. This place is a time capsule of a time in history where the government of Indonesia and the UNHCR came together; providing aid to those escaping the hardships and some may even say; atrocities within their own homeland.
Address: Q59R+82J, Sijantung, Galang, Batam City, Riau Islands 29485, Indonesia
Google Maps to Galang Refugee Museum.