As deadline looms for Merak boat, Tamils win speedy processing but refugee groups concerned about relocation conditions
Media Release April 13, 2010
While the Australian government imposes a three-month delay on visa processing, the 200 Tamil asylum seekers on the boat at Merak have been guaranteed that they will be processed by UNHCR within two months if they leave the boat.
The asylum seekers have also won their demand for immigration verification to be done on the boat.
But a sticking point in the discussions is the re-location site for the asylum seekers is being kept secret by the Indonesian government. A letter has been sent to the Indonesian Foreign Ministry asking it to reveal the location and conditions of any relocation.
The asylum seekers stranded at Merak since October last year, expect to receive an ultimatum from the Indonesian government to leave the boat at any time.
The five-day deadline, given when Indonesian immigration, UNHCR and IOM representatives visited the boat last week, expires today, Monday 12 April.
However the asylum seekers have not reached a decision to leave the boat. They are requesting that legal aid have access to the boat and to be a party to any negotiations with the government and provide assistance in the refugee determination process.
“We want a guarantee from the Indonesian government that force will not be used to remove people from the boat,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.
The Indonesian Human Rights Commission has also requested access to the boat and to supervise the conditions of any relocation.
Refugee groups in Australia and Indonesia (the Civil Society Solidarity for Refugee and Asylum Seekers), have expressed their concerns at the lack of information provided to the asylum seekers and are calling on the Indonesian government to reveal the planned relocation site and to ensure there is legal aid access for the asylum seekers.
“It is a great step forward that the UNHCR will process within two months. Now the Australian government needs to clearly indicate that it will live up to its commitment to play a role in re-settling Merak refugees referred to them by the UNHCR,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.
“Thankfully the disgraceful decision by the Australian government to suspend Tamil visa applications does not apply in Indonesia, but it has put a cloud over the discussions between the Tamils and the Indonesian government.
“For seven months, people have been left in limbo at Merak. It is time for the Australian government to end the uncertainty.”
For more information contact Refugee Action Coalition, Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713