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December 28, 2009

Australian humanitarian visa application forms confiscated, as Merak asylum seeker “disappears” after arrest at hospital

by refugeeactioncoalitionsydney

Media Release December 28
Refugee activists in Indonesia are extremely concerned at the fate of one of the Tamil Merak asylum seekers, “Sammy”, who was arrested at the Merak hospital on Saturday.

“Sammy”, who had permission to be at the hospital, had been assisting a Tamil patient from the boat at Merak. He had also been with Jacob, the asylum seeker who died on 23 December after authorities failed to provide timely medical assistance.

While there has been no official statement as to the whereabouts of “Sammy”, unofficial sources believe he is being held at Merak and is expected to be transferred to immigration detention in Jakarta, where twelve other Tamils and five Afghans are confined to two small cells.

“It seems that Sammy’s disappearance is related to Indonesian authorities attempts to prevent the asylum seekers from obtaining Australian humanitarian visa applications,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition, who is currently in Jakarta. “Humanitarian visa application forms obtained by some Merak asylum seekers at the hospital had been confiscated by Indonesian authorities when they returned to the boat.  The twelve Tamils in immigration detention in Jakarta were also denied permission to complete the application forms last week.

“We discussed this issue with the Indonesian human rights commissioner on Saturday, but Sammy’s arrest raises the concerns to a new level. The Indonesian authorities should return Sammy to the ship. We are calling on the Australian embassy to facilitate the distribution of the forms and to ensure that no asylum seekers are victimised for obtaining or completing the forms.

“Scores of applications have been completed electronically and will be sent to the Australian embassy,” said Ian Rintoul.

“We are also concerned that Sammy’s ‘disappearance’ may also be related to the IOM internal report about Jacob’s death. IOM has been less than honest in its pubic statements about the medical attention Jacob received,” added Rintoul.

Meanwhile, a Jesuit priest was again denied access to the asylum seekers at Merak. Father Adianus Suyadi was tuned away from Merak after approaching IOM, navy and immigration authorities for permission to speak to Christians on the boat.

“We are seeking urgent legal assistance to determine what has happened to Sammy,” said Ian Rintoul, “and we will be raising the question of the visa application forms with the Australian embassy at the protest in Jakarta on Monday.”

The Merak asylum seekers are concerned at the growing intimidation at the boat. “Alex”, the spokesperson for the Merak boat was roughed up by Indonesian police in an incident after Jacob’s death. Dozens of other asylum seekers intervened to prevent the police continuing the assault. A few days earlier a woman had also been assaulted by navy personnel.

A protest calling for an end to the Indonesian solution will be held at the Australian embassy Jakarta, 11am, 28 December.

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