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January 15, 2010

Sri Lanka is not safe for asylum seekers or refugees

by refugeeactioncoalitionsydney

Media Release January 15

Refugee groups today completely rejected claims by the Sri Lankan government that asylum seekers or refugees could return to Sri Lanka without fear of harm.
“This claim by the Sri Lankan government has no credibility. The US State Department has accused the Sri Lankan government of war crimes because of its treatment of Tamil civilians in the civil war last year. The UN has recently confirmed that a video of naked Tamils being executed by the Sri Lankan army is authentic. The on-going repression of Tamils in Sri Lanka is real.

“It is a travesty that Australia and other Commonwealth governments have been silent in the face of the atrocities of the Sri Lankan government. Aid agencies and journalists are still prevented from entering internment camps of Tamils in the north of the country,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

A Tamil man, Sujendran Gunarathnam, who voluntarily retuned to Sri Lanka after leaving the refugee boat in Merak Indonesia was arrested and held incommunicado when he returned to Colombo in lat November. He is still in Boosa prison.

Sinhalese asylum seekers who were deported from Christmas Island by Australian last year were similarly detained in Colombo. One of this group was badly beaten and is still in prison. Another was detained and questioned for three days. Like many of the others deported, he refuses to return to his home village as he fears for his safety. He has been living on the streets of Colombo since he returned.

In December, an asylum seeker was shot and killed on a beach in the south of the country as he attempted to board a boat said to be traveling to Australia.

“The Sri Lankan government has been on an international misinformation campaign to try to convince the international community that it has clean hands. Nothing could be further from the truth,” said Ian Rintoul

“The recent action of the Sri Lankan navy officials visiting refugee cells in central Jakarta to try and pressure refugees there to return to Sri Lanka is part of their offensive. They have also been pushing the Indonesian government to deport asylum seekers on the boat at Merak.

“The Australian government has recognized that the Oceanic Viking refugees cannot be returned to Sri Lanka. The Australian government is just as responsible for the Merak asylum seekers. It should ensure their complete protection from the Sri Lankan government and bring them to Australia.”

For more information contact, Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713.

International protests to mark 100 days of the Merak boat in Indonesia – No Indonesian Solution

Refugee activists around the world will be holding a vigil on Monday the 18th January to support the 250 Tamil asylum seekers stranded on the boat at Merak, Indonesia.

The day marks 100 days since Kevin Rudd’s phone call had the Merak Tamil asylum seekers intercepted and returned to Indonesia.

There will be protests in Canada, New Zealand, and the UK, to tell Kevin Rudd and the Australian government:

No Indonesian solution; Bring the Merak asylum seekers to Australia;

No-offshore processing. Full rights for all asylum seekers. Close Christmas Island

To demand that the Australian Government take responsibility over the 254 Tamil refugees who have been stranded in Merak, Indonesia for the past 100 days.

For media enquiries in Australia: Sara Nathan + 61 412 236 703 or Ian Rintoul + 61 417 275 713

Vigil details:

Australia, Sydney: 12:30 – 1:30 pm. Kevin Rudd’s office, 70 Phillip Street

Australia, Newcastle(NSW): 4:30pm. At the Clock Tower, Beaumont St, Hamilton

Australia, Melbourne: 5:30 pm outside the State Library, Cnr
Swanston/Latrobe Streets, Melbourne

Australia, Perth, 12.30pm, Office of the Immigration Minister Chris Evans.
51 Ord Street, West Perth.

New Zealand, Auckland. 4:00 PM. Australian Consulate, 186-194 Quay St,

Canada, Toronto: 11am – 2pm. Australian Consulate, 175 Bloor Street, EastToronto

UK, London: 4:00 PM. The Australian High Commission, Strand, London WC2B 4LA

USA: Email and postcard campaign

Malaysia: Email and postcard campaign

Read more from Press releases

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