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March 11, 2010

Refugee advocates lobby Indonesian President to intervene for Merak boat people

by refugeeactioncoalitionsydney

Media Release March 11, 2010

Refugee advocates and Tamil community representatives today (Thursday) delivered a letter to the Sydney Indonesian consulate to be delivered to Indonesian President Yudhoyono requesting that he personally intervene to break the impasse over the Tamil asylum boat at Merak.

“There is a desperate need to break the impasse at Merak. They have been stranded at the port for five months now. The people who left the boat believing they would be allowed to live in hostel accommodation and be processed by the UNHCR are now in a tiny immigration cell in Jakarta. They now have Indonesian UNHCR cards but there in no indication that they are any closer to resettlement,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

The letter, signed by the Refugee Action Coalition, and Tamil community representatives, points out that both the Rudd government and the United States government have indicated their willingness to resettle the Tamil refugees after UNHCR processing.

“The Australian government has been ducking its responsibility by saying that Australia will only play a role resettling the refugees after UNHCR processing.”

Although 109 of the Merak boat people have UNHCR refugee cards, the Indonesian government requires that the asylum seekers be “immigration verified” before allowing UNHCR processing to begin.

“We have asked that the Indonesian government consider starting the process of immigration verification without actually requiring the asylum seekers to disembark. This would pave the way for UNHCR processing.”

“It seems that the Indonesian authorities may not have anywhere to adequately accommodate the Merak boat people even if they wanted to disembark. The warehouse at Bekasi that was being proposed to house the Tamils has been indefinitely delayed. Allowing immigration verification could at least put them on the road to a possible solution.”

End of the Indonesian Solution?

“We have been encouraged by President Yudhoyono’s comments that the framework agreement signed with Australia recognises that Indonesia is a ‘transit country” and includes ‘arrangements for temporary transit in Indonesia’ and ‘how they [ie asylum seekers] will be relocated…’ ”

“If the framework agreement in fact provides an enduring solution for asylum seekers in Indonesia, this would be the end of the Indonesia solution and a significant step forward for regional refugee policy,” said Ian Rintoul.

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

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