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November 25, 2009

Merak asylum seekers appeal to Red Cross for humanitarian aid

by refugeeactioncoalitionsydney

Media Release November 25
Refugee advocates in touch with the asylum seekers on the boat at Merak, Indonesia, have refuted media claims that there has been a fight between those who want to stay on the boat and those who want to get off.

“There seems to be a concerted effort to discredit the asylum seekers at Merak,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition. A story in today’s (Wednesday) edition of The Australian quotes “Western aid officials” saying there was a fight on the boat that resulted in 15 Tamils disembarking.

“But there are no Western aid officials monitoring the boat. The Indonesian authorities have restricted access to the port since the IOM left a week ago. No media or aid officials are allowed to visit the boat.

“The report claims that the 15 were staying in a tent on the dock, ‘protected by the Indonesian navy personnel’. This is far from the truth. The tent was being used to give some of the children from the boat better shelter from the heavy rains,” said Ian Rintoul.

“Today the tent was actually taken away by the Indonesian navy. So we have even less shelter for the children,” Alex, the Tamil representative at Merak told the Refugee Action Coalition.

“The false stories come as the Indonesian government seems to be stepping up the pressure on the asylum seekers to come off the boat,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“Since the withdrawal of the International Organisation of Migration from the port at Merak, the asylum seekers have been left without badly needed medical attention. The IOM, and the Australian government who pays them, has so far ignored calls to re-establish humanitarian support for the asylum seekers.

“The asylum seekers resorted to telephone advice from a Brisbane-based doctor when a number of people became sick and dehydrated two days ago.

The Merak boat people have now issued a plea to the International Committee of the Red Cross and its Indonesian affiliate to come to the aid of the asylum seekers. Text of the appeal that has been faxed to the Geneva and Indonesian offices of the Red Cross is shown below.

“We urgently need assistance, particularly medical assistance,” said Alex. “We are appealing to the UNHCR to come to the boat so processing can begin. We are still waiting for officials from the Australian government.

“We know that the Tamils on the Oceanic Viking are being re-settled in Australia. We are the same as them,” said “Alex”.

The Refugee Action Coalition is holding a “Welcome Refugees” rally in Sydney Town Hall, 2pm, Sunday 2 November. Speakers include Green Senator Sarah Hanson Young.

For more information, contact Refugee Action Coalition, Ian Rintoul 0417
275 713

To: International Committee Red Cross, Geneva
and Indonesian Red Cross

Attn: Indonesian Secretary General: Mr Iyang D. SUKANDAR

Appeal For Assistance From Asylum Seekers At Merak, Indonesia

We, the 250 Tamil Sri Lankans on the refugee boat in Merak Indonesia request the international community to hear our appeal for help.

We need urgent assistance from the international aid agencies and the Indonesian Red Cross.

When we first arrived in Merak in early October, the International Organisation of Migration provided support, but the IOM constantly tried to push us into leaving the boat. Now the IOM has withdrawn from the port area and no longer assists us.

We are without any medical care in particular, which is why we are calling on the Red Cross for help. Conditions on the boat are getting more difficult. We need better shelter and medical attention. There have been urgent cases of people collapsing and requiring hospitalisation but we could not get an ambulance. People have fevers and suffer from vomiting and diarrhea but there is no medical care.

International doctors have sometimes been able to give us medical advice over the phone But this is not much when people seem seriously ill and their lives at risk

Please assist us before more people become sick or we face a life-threatening situation. Today, the Indonesian navy removed a tent that was providing shelter for children from the dock near the boat.

We are refugees. All we are asking is that we are treated as human beings. We urgently need medical and humanitarian assistance. We want the Red Cross to take over responsibility for providing assistance to us.

Please contact us urgently – call + 6281387780889

Signed: 250 Tamil refugees at Merak.

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