Update on Tamil Asylum Seekers on boat off Merak, Indonesia‏ (Nov.22)

On November 19th, I’ve talked with Alex, the ‘spokesperson’ of those 248 Tamil asylum seekers who’ve been stranded in Indonesia sea waters. Due to the bad connection, I had to try twice and got him in second occasion for short though. He has claimed that :

– Only one toilet in a boat for 248 people

– People eat once a day at night time.

– Drinking water, which IOM has provided, is ok as of then, while sea food from either IOM or vendors who are sometimes on boat to sell food, seemed to creat food poisoning. (due to the bad connection, I failed to clarify about “vendors”)

– Health of particularly children have been seriously deteriorating

– 22 year old Vansanthan has been unconscious for more than an hour before being brought to the hospital

– No ambulence ready to carry those sickened, thus people who need to rush to hospital have to wait for long

– 59 people, including Alex himself, have been suffering serious diahhrea.

– International Organisation for Migration (or IOM) has withdrawn 5 days ago (i.e. November 14th) and no Navy then. Therefore “nobody here except us” he said.

– There are people (out of 248) who have actually experienced the last war early of the year but eacaped the detention camp.

– Lastly, he has appealed the media to come to see what happen to them, asserting that people will be there until the Australian authority accept them as refugees.

Afterwards, I’ve got more clear and many more developments, thanks to one Tamil Australian on dated 22nd November.

and one terrible news here at http://srilankawatch.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=359&Itemid=2

– Penseur 21-


I had an early morning call a few minutes ago, as heavy rains is making it impossible for the 248 refugees to stay dry or sleep. Life in the overcrowded boat is becoming extremely difficult. Previous heavy winds and rain had torn the tarpaulins that covered the boat from the elements, and replacement tarpaulins have not been provided.

  1. Fuel level on the boat is dangerously low with no replacement being provided. This means, they have stopped running the engine and therefore, they cannot have showers as the engine has to be running to pump the water and also no electricity on the boat. They cannot charge their mobile phones, and therefore if there is a medical emergency, they won’t be able to contact once the battery runs out.
  2. International Organisation for Migration withdrew on Saturday 14th of November, and therefore there is no humanitarian agency caring for the 248 who remain on board.
  3. Health on the boat is deteriorating with lack of nutrition and also over 60 people suffering from food poisoning. Twenty four year old Vasanthan collapsed due to dehydration bought on buy diarrhoea and vomitting on Wednesday 18th November, and it took 3 Australian human rights activists (Sara Nathan, Dr Brian Seneviratne & Madhuni Kumarakulasinghe) 1.5 hours of phone calls to UNHCR in Geneva, Australia, IOM in Geneva and Indonesia, Amnesty International in London etc and eventually a humanitarian in Indonesia before an ambulance attended the scene. Friday 20th November, similar medical emergency occurred with delays of 2 – 4 hours before medical assistance was provided. Urgent medical supplies and attention to cope with around 60 people suffering food poisoning should be attended to before permanent damage occurs.
  4. The youngest on board is a 9 month old baby who was born in a bunker during Sri Lanka’s aerial bombardment of the so called “No Fire Zone”.
  5. This boat was intercepted by the Indonesian authorities following a phone call by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to the Indonesian Prime Minister. This boat was intercepted on 10 October (over 6 weeks ago).
  6. Indonesia has not signed the UN Convention in Relation to the status of refugees and has suggested they will deport these people to Sri Lanka. There is no doubt that these people will face torture and/or death if returned to Sri Lanka.
  7. Indonesia has not allowed UNHCR access to these asylum seekers, even though UNHCR in Canberra has offered to assess their applications. On 19th November, there were media reports that Indonesia will allow UNHNCR to assess their applications, but UNHCR in Canberra confirmed they have not been contacted.
  8. Sri Lanka has made allegations that all on board the boat are bogus political refugees (see article below), without assessing a single application. Further, UNHCR had previously assessed 109 of the asylum seekers prior to them boarding the boat and have provided ID cards confirming they are genuine refugees.
  9. Sri Lanka government initially made a baseless allegation that the spokesperson, “Alex”, was a people smuggler and now changed it to “Deputy leader of Canadian Tiger network”. Alex has not lived in Canada since 2003. There is grave fears that Alex will face severe persecution if returned to Sri Lanka.
Sara Nathan +61 412 236 703

Email: sara_nathan@yahoo.com.au

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