Serious concerns for Merak Refugees Threatened With Deportation

MEDIA RELEASE (1)

Serious concerns for Merak Refugees Threatened With Deportation

Four Arrested Going To Hospital

Refugee activists have welcomed the news that all Oceanic Viking refugees are being released and re-settled.

“The speedy processing and re-settlement has shown that is not necessary for refugees to wait months and years in Indonesia,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

But refugee activists have serious concerns for the fate of another four Merak refugees arrested last Tuesday night.

“Now the Rudd government must put in place proper processing for all asylum seekers in Indonesia. The attention on the Oceanic Viking has left other refugees’ lives in jeopardy,” said Ian Rintoul.

On Tuesday 15 December, four of the Merak asylum seekers left the wharf area with an Indonesian doctor to get medical treatment. Three others went to get clothing which is increasingly short supply on the boat.

The four asylum seekers and the doctor were arrested by the Indonesian police and taken to the Indonesian navy office in Merak. Two of the refugees have UNHCR refugee cards.

The doctor was released after questioning. The four asylum seekers were threatened with deportation by the navy officer in charge and have now been moved to Indonesian Immigration Head Office in Jakarta where they are being held in custody.

The doctor has been subject to further questioning and a further police inquiry is scheduled for Monday, 21 December. Indonesian human rights activists are attempting to gain access and provide legal support for the detainees.

There are serious concerns for the fate of those recently arrested.

Seven of eight Tamils who voluntarily left the Merak boat in November are in immigration detention in Jakarta and have not been seen by the UNHCR.

One of those asylum seekers who went back to Sri Lanka on 26 November after news that his mother was seriously ill. He was arrested at Colombo airport when he returned and has been kept incommunicado.

Since then Sri Lankan police have shot dead one Tamil asylum seeker on the beach in Sri Lanka as he was preparing to board a refugee boat.

“It is too dangerous for people to be returned to Sri Lanka. The Merak asylum seekers are the Rudd’s government responsibility. It was Kevin Rudd’s call to the Indonesian president that stopped the boat. The Merak boat people are no different to the people on the Oceanic Viking.

“The Rudd government must work on an Australian solution not the Indonesian solution. The Indonesian solution is a recipe for more misery and mistreatment with no certain outcome for the people detained. The Rudd government must insist that IOM provide the necessary humanitarian support for the Merak boat. Australia funds IOM but denying the Merak people assistance is creating a humanitarian crisis on the boat itself,” said Ian Rintoul.

For more information contact Ian Rintoul +62 81398569964

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MEDIA RELEASE (2)

INDONESIAN REFUGEES TELL AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT, “ACT COMPASSIONATELY  –  THERE IS NO INDONESIAN SOLUTION.”

As Tamil Oceanic Viking refugees arrive in Australia, those on the boat at Merak and in immigration detention in Indonesia have called on the Australian government to act compassionately and guarantee their processing and re-settlement in Australia.

“We are the same as the people on the Oceanic Viking,” said Alex, from the boat at Merak. “We have been waiting since early 11 October.  The Australian government personally phoned the Indonesian president to intercept our boat. If we had been treated the same as those on the Oceanic Viking we would have been processed by now. But now, 31 children will be spending Christmas on the boat.”

Asylum seekers in immigration detention in appalling conditions in central Jakarta have also asked the Australian government to intervene in their cases.  Nine Afghan men, including one who has been there 15 months, are in a cell, three by five metres.

The Afghan detainees asked Australian refugee activists visiting the Jakarta detention cells why the Australian government signed the Refugee Convention if it was not going to give refugees protection.

The twelve Tamil detainees from the Merak boat in the second immigration cell said, “Some of us already have UNHCR refugee status, but we are being treated like criminals. Some of us have been threatened with deportation. We were told that we would see the UNHCR but we haven’t seen them. We need Australia’s protection.”

Four of the Tamils were detained by the Indonesian police after they left the Merak boat, some seeking medical attention, last Thursday. One of them left Sri Lanka in December 2008, after his brother was arrested as an LTTE sympathiser and he also began to be harassed.

The refugee activists were shocked by the conditions in which the Tamil and Afghan men are being imprisoned. The Tamils cell is a triangular hole barely three by ten metres, holding twelve men.

“It is no better than a cage,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refuge Action Coalition. “They get only two meals a day, and fruit only once a week. They sleep in rosters, because there is so little room.  They are not allowed out to exercise.”

“This is the reality of the Indonesian solution,” said Ian Rintoul. “The interception, detention and mistreatment of asylum seekers is being funded by the Australian government.  Sri Lanka is still unsafe.  If these people were on Christmas Island, at least they would be in tents and be able to walk around. There would certainty for resettlement.

“Kevin Rudd needs to make another phone call,” said Ian Rintoul, “This time to let the Indonesian president  know that Australia will live up to its obligations under the Refugee Convention and resettle the asylum seekers stranded in Indonesia.”

For more information contact Ian Rintoul, Refugee Action Coalition +6281398569964

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