This article presents an account of Faduma, a Somali woman currently living in Jakarta, Indonesia, in order to illustrate the creativity, resilience and adaptability required to make do as a refugee with little to no formal support in a rather hostile environment. For Faduma, Indonesia presents such an environment. As it offers no formal protection for asylum seekers and refugees and only tolerates their temporary presence without guaranteeing them any fundamental rights, such as the right to work, it can be characterised as a ‘deviant destination’ for refugees in search of durable and effective solutions. This article analyses Faduma's strategies, embedded in the macro-political context of forced migration, the Global North's externalised border policies, the absence of safe pathways, and the lack of proper refugee protection in Southeast Asia, for finding informal employment, attaining new skills and education, and forming strategic friendships with Indonesians and expatriates as a means of dealing with racism, exploitation and multifaceted precarity. We selected Faduma's case from amongst a number of encounters that we had with Somali refugees in Indonesia because of her extraordinary involvement with the Somali community. While the current toleration of refugee activities by Indonesian authorities enables refugees to survive in transit, we argue that such unintentional and informal protection is not a durable approach for larger groups of refugees enduring prolonged periods of waiting.