[TamilNet, Tuesday, 12 January 2010, 06:51 GMT]
Authorities in Jakarta have allowed Sri Lankan Government officials access to several Tamil refugees currently being held within a detention centre in an attempt to force them back to Sri Lanka, amid growing concerns for their safety in Indonesian hands. Captain Kapil of the Sri Lankan Navy and two other officers were escorted by Indonesian immigration to a group of refugees who had recently agreed to disembark off a boat near the port of Merak with the promise of speedy resettlement, before proceeding to threaten the group and those remaining on board with the prospect of deportation to the infamous Boosa detention centre, according to The Age.
Humanitarian advocates have expressed outrage over the incident, with members of the Australian Tamil Congress (ATC) citing Indonesia’s non committal to the 1951 Refugee Convention as the basis for its blatant disregard for the safety of refugees, demanding action by the U.N to safeguard the hundreds of Tamil refugees languishing in detention throughout the South East Asian nation.
“Indonesia should not allow Sri Lanka to have access to the asylum-seekers when they are trying to flee from persecution in Sri Lanka,” an ATC spokesperson told the Australian media.
“Indonesia is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention in Relation to the Status of Refugees and these asylum-seekers are not safe in Indonesian detention. They need to be brought to Australia immediately to have their cases processed in a country that provides asylum to refugees.”
A diplomatic row between Indonesia and Australia has ensued almost 3 months since the boat was captured by Indonesian authorities at the request of the Australian Government, with neither country willing to claim responsibility for their resettlement.
Almost 250 Tamil refugees, including women and children continue to remain on board in horrid conditioins, refusing to disembark unless Australia examines their claims for asylum.
Calls for international intervention were intensified late last month with the death of a man on board, amid accusations Indonesian officials and welfare groups involved in the standoff refused to offer him medical assistance.