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July 11, 2009

Some distressed boat people make it to land, but not all may be safe

by refugeeactioncoalitionsydney

Media Release
11 July 2009

Some of the 74 Afghan asylum seekers feared lost at sea Indonesian waters fours days ago have made it to land. Fifteen of them are presently in the Indonesian police station at Bima.

The asylum seekers contacted Ian Rintoul from Bima police station around midday today, Saturday. They are anxious and distressed, having kept isoltatred at the poklcie station since last night. They expect another group to be brought to the police station later today. But they are extremely worried that another 20 or 25 have been lost.

The group made it to land when they were picked up by another small boat who took them to land. But they were unsure what has happened to others on the boat. They told Ian Rintoul that the original boat has gone. The water was very rough, and it was windy. It was not good, they said. We do not know where the other people are – they are lot in the water or in the jungle.”

But they are not sure that everyone on the distressed boat did make it safely to land.

“Please tell everyone,” Rintoul was told, “We called the Australian police. We called the Indonesian police. Why didn’t they help us? For four nights we were on the water. No-one came.”

Ian Rintou, a spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition re-iterated his call for the Rudd government to end the crack down on asylum seekers and people smugglers in Indonesia.

“Pushing the Indonesian governments to detain and arrest asylum seekers and people smugglers is putting refugees’ lives in danger,” Ian Rintoul said.
“Please try to understand,” one text message to Rintoul, from the Afghan asylum seekers said, “ we are compelled to put our lives at risk.”

“The government crack down now means that asylum seekers are now fearful of Indonesian police. They are fleeing persecution by Indonesian police, encouraged by the Australian government as well as the persecution they faced in Sri Lanka or Afghanistan.

“The government should begin to processing asylum seekers in Indonesia and Malaysia. There would be no need for dangerous boat rides, if the Australian government would undertake processing in Indonesia. That is the humanitarian thing to do.

“Now the question is whether the Australian authorities gave sufficient support for these distressed boat to be found. Some people have made it to shore, but lives may have been tragically lost. It is a miracle that anyone made it to land.”

“The Australian government will put more people in danger. If the government was really concerned about the safety of asylum seeker they would be processing people in Indonesia – not forcing to use people smugglers.”
For more information, contact Ian Rintoul mobile 0417 275 713.

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