WHILE KEVIN RUDD PLAYS SCROOGE , SANTA GETS THROUGH TO ASYLUM BOAT
STAND OFF AT MERAK CONTINUES
Indonesian officials have barred access to the boat at Merak but, Australian refugee activists in Jakarta supporting the Tamil asylum seekers have successfully negotiated for boxes of Christmas gifts to be distributed to the children on the boat.
After a series of high level discussions with Australian and Indonesian activists, the IOM has delivered five boxes of toys, books and other gifts, brought from Australia, to the asylum boat on Christmas Day.
The gifts did a little to lift the spirits at the boat as result of the death of Jacob on Christmas Eve. Another 47 year old asylum seeker has since been hospitalised.
Not long after the gifts were delivered, the Merak boat waas hit by a violent thunderstorm leaving asylum seekers physically holding togetrher ther torn tarpaulins to provide some shelter from the pouring rain.
“Christmas came to the children on the Merak boat but no thanks to the Rudd government,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refuge Action Coalition, presently in Jakarta. “Kevin Rudd’s so-called “Indonesian solution” has left the Merak asylum seekers in limbo for over two and half months. The Australian government says it is humane to asylum seekers but there is no humanity on display in its attitude to the Merak asylum seekers.”
But a resolution to the impasse at Merak is not expected until January 2010.
MERAK ISSUES FOR RESOLUTION IN THE NEW YEAR
Refugee activists put forward a number of issues needed to be included in any successful resolution of the Merak situation including legal representation during Indonesian immigration verification; access to the UNHCR; a guarantee against arbitrary detention; support for basic needs while being processed and a guarantee of non-refoulement (non return to danger) of asylum seekers.
The question of deportation is a major sticking point for any resolution since the arrest and incommunicado detention of one Merak asylum seeker, Sujendran Gunarathnam, who returned to Sri Lanka on 26 November. Seven others who left the boat are being held in appalling conditions in Jakarta immigration detention.
It is expected that a proposal for resolving the plight of the Merak refugees will be finalised in early 2010, following discussions among several Indonesian government departments, and further discussions with the Australian government.
“The delays at re-settling the Oceanic Viking refugees has clearly put a question mark over the reliability of the Australian government in its relations with Indonesia and asylum seekers. Sending asylum seekers to Romania for further processing is not the same as sending them to Canada. It looks like Australia will renege on its promise that all UNHCR Oceanic Viking refugees will be re=settled within four to six weeks, ” said Ian Rintoul.
“Australian officials had promised that all those who were UNHCR refugees would be re-settled within 4-6 weeks. But only 15 refugees have so far been released from Tanjung Pinang, and Australia has taken a total of two. Some of the others are being “re-settled” via Romania – a process that might take yet another six months.”
“The Indonesia solution has become an international embarrassment. The Rudd government’s refugee hypocrisy is on international display. It claims to have humane standards at home while it tries to impose very different standards on refugees being held at Australia’s request in Indonesia.”
A protest targetting the Indionesian solution will be held at the Australian embassy, Jakarta, at 11.00am, 28th December.
For more information contact Ian Rintoul on +62 81 398 569964.