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December 28, 2009

Jakarta refugee protest condemns Indonesia Solution

by refugeeactioncoalitionsydney

Media Release December 28, 2009

Around 40 people staged a lively protest outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta on Monday, 28 December.

A large banner in Bahasa and English said, “Reject the Indonesia Solution, Free the Refugees, No to Detention,” attracted a lot of attention from passers-by and the local media.

The rally was jointly called by Indonesian and Australian pro-refugee groups – the Confederation Congress of Indonesia Union Alliance, the Working Peoples Association and the Refugee Action Coalition. The joint statement for the rally (pasted below) also highlighted the need for urgent assistance for Tamil asylum seekers at Merak.

A number of Australian humanitarian visa application forms submitted by the Merak asylum seekers were handed to staff at the Embassy. The visa application forms have been a source of controversy over the past week. Copies of the form were confiscated from people at returning to the boat from the hospital where they obtained the forms. A few days earlier, authorities at the Jakarta immigration building refused to allow Tamil detainees to complete the forms.

The forms also seem to have been the reason that a Tamil asylum seeker, “Sammy”, was arrested at the Merak hospital on Saturday night. The whereabouts of “Sammy” is yet to be determined.

The protest outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta had a dramatic ending, when Indonesian police attempted to arrest the Australian activist, Ian Rintoul, as the rally was leaving the Australian embassy. Protesters surrounded Rintoul physically preventing the police making the arrest. After a tense standoff and legal argument between police and protesters, lasting 45 minutes, the police withdrew with a photocopy of Rintoul’s passport.

Meanwhile little seems to have been learned from the death of Merak asylum seeker, Jacob, on 23 December. Despite numerous and increasingly desperate requests from early morning, by the family of a seriously ill 7 year old girl, no ambulance was provided until after 3.00pm.

“Kevin Rudd created the Indonesia solution with his call to the Indonesian president to stop the Mark boat. It was an arbitrary decision that subverts the Refugee Convention by denying protection to asylum seekers. Without Kevin Rudd’s call, Jacob would be alive today.

“Genuine refugees have been left in limbo. It is a disgrace that hundreds of asylum seekers are languishing in Indonesian detention centres built with Australian government money. It makes a mockery of the Rudd government claim that the government has a humane policy toward asylum seekers.

A protest will be held in Sydney, 30 Dec, 12.30pm, at the Immigration
Office, Lee Street, City.

For more information contact, Ian Rintoul +62 81398569964 or +61 417 275 713

Joint Statement by Confederation Congress of Indonesia Union Alliance, Working Peoples Association, Refugee Action Coalition for protest at Australian embassy, 28 December, 11am

No to the Indonesian Solution
Free the Refugees; No detention of asylum seekers in Indonesia or Australia
Urgent humanitarian aid for the Merak Tamil asylum seekers

On 11 October, the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd personally called the Indonesia President to request that the Indonesian navy intercept a boat carrying Tamil asylum seekers heading for Australia. The Indonesian navy intercepted that boat and took it to Merak, where it has been for the last two and half months.

Under the so-called Indonesia solution, Australia pays hundreds of millions of dollars to intercept and detain asylum seekers seeking protection of Australian under the Refugee Convention. The Indonesia solution means that the Australian and Indonesian governments are co-operating to deny the human rights of asylum seekers.

We believe that international borders should not be closed to asylum seekers. Refugees and asylum seekers should be welcome at international borders.

Tamil, Afghan, Royingha and other people fleeing persecution and war should
be free to seek protection in safe countries. In Australia, the government
proclaims that detention of asylum seekers is a last resort, but in
Indonesia, detention centres funded by the Australian government are
inflicting misery on hundreds of asylum seekers across the Indonesian

Instead of funding detention centres, the Australian government could be
providing humanitarian aid for housing and welfare.

The tragic death of Tamil asylum seeker, George Jacob at Merak on December 23 has put the fate of asylum seekers caught by the Indonesian solution into sharp focus. One death is one too many. The Australian government funds the International Organisation of Migration to provide support for asylum seekers in Indonesia but Jacob died because the Indonesian authority and IOM waited too long to take Jacob to hospital.

Without immediate humanitarian assistance, for medical care and proper shelter, there could easily be another tragedy among the 250 asylum seekers at Merak.

The experience of the Tamil refugees on the Australian ship Oceanic Viking shows that it is possible to quickly process and re-settle asylum seekers in Indonesia. But the Australian government is not willing to take responsibility for the people at Merak.  Australia only re-settled 35 refugees from Indonesia in 2008-2009. A regional humanitarian policy for refugees must have a guarantee of resettlement in a safe country.

The Indonesian solution must be replaced with a humanitarian policy that guarantees the human rights and the freedom of refugees. There must be no limitation on the right of refugee boats to land or on the right to seek asylum and be guaranteed permanent protection and re-settlement.

A successful resolution for the 250 Merak asylum seekers must include; (i) legal representation during Indonesian immigration verification; (ii) immediate access to the UNHCR to begin refugee processing ; (iii) a guarantee against arbitrary detention; (iv)support for basic needs while being processed and (v)  a guarantee of non-refoulement – that asylum seekers will not be deported to face danger in any country.

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