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January 30, 2010

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Refugee activists deported from Indonesia

by refugeeactioncoalitionsydney

Two Australian refugee activists detained and questioned by Indonesian 
police in Merak have been deported by Indonesian immigration authorities,
will arrive in Australia on Saturday morning (30 January). 

Tamil community activist, Sara Nathan, will arrive at Sydney international
 airport at 7.40am Saturday, 30 January.

She will be available for media
 comment on her arrival at the international airport. 

Their deportation follows claims that they violated the conditions of their 
visas by being in the restricted area around the boat of Tamil asylum 
seekers at Merak. Under conditions placed on the return of their passports 
they were not allowed to make comments to the media. They are also barred 
from returning to Indonesia for six months. 

Australian consular officials and Indonesian legal aid representatives
 provided support at their interview with the Indonesian chief minister 
immigration on Thursday afternoon, Indonesian time. 

“Claims by the immigration authorities that we entered the restricted area
at the boat are completely untrue. We were in the public area beyond the
boundary of the port.

“The claims that I was associated with people smuggling are also completely
 baseless. At first I was meant to be associated with “Nathan” the people 
smuggler (part of my maiden surname is Nathan but my married name is NOT
Nathan), by distributing Australian humanitarian visa forms – something 
that was actually suggested by Australian DFAT. Later the claims changed to 
being in the restricted area around the boat.

“We were in Indonesia because of our concern for the welfare and the future 
of the asylum seekers on the boat at Merak. That remains our central
 concern,” said Sara Nathan, on her arrival at Sydney airport.

“Being detained and deported won’t hide the injustice of leaving the people
on the boat for three months without proper support. The deportation will
not stop us campaigning against the Indonesian solution or for justice for
the people at Merak. 

“If Kevin Rudd had not called on the Indonesian government to intercept the
boat to Merak, none of this would have happened. The Australian government 
urgently needs to play a role in resolving the situation it created.

“The Indonesian government has placed a complete ban on access to the boat
by welfare groups, NGOs and journalists. That ban should be lifted. We have
 suggested a way forward for the immigration verification of the asylum
seekers and processing by the UNHCR,” Nathan said. 

“Such processing would pave the way for Australia to play a role in the
re-settlement of those found to be refugees.

There is an urgent need for
 the Australian government to provide the assistance that Indonesia needs to
guarantee the safety and future of the asylum seekers.

“News that Sri Lankan opposition leader, Sarath Fonseka, himself accused of
war crimes in his role as leader of the army, may ask Australia for asylum
is testament to the dangers that any opponents of the Sri Lankan government
face. Just like those fleeing the Taliban in Afghanistan, Tamils are
fleeing human rights abuses in Sri Lanka.

“Australia, as a signatory to the Refugee Convention, should live up to its 
obligations and welcome those fleeing persecution – including those at 
Merak.”

For further information and media comment contact Sara Nathan 0412 236 703 
or Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713

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1 Comment Post a comment
  1. Jan 30 2010

    Hi, this is a comment.
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