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April 19, 2010

Seven month standoff ends as Merak asylum seekers forced off boat. Resettlement ball now in Kevin Rudd’s court

by refugeeactioncoalitionsydney

Media Release, April 19, 2010

Indonesian police and navy personnel this afternoon Jakarta time have acted to force almost 200 Tamil asylum seekers off their boat at Merak where they have been since 11 October 2009.

Despite please from the asylums seekers, Indonesian officials refused to allow legal aid or human rights representatives to supervise the disembarkation.

Refugee supporters and representatives of the human rights commission are traveling to the Jakarta airport in an effort to gain access to the asylum seekers before they are moved to Tanjung Pinang.

Around 2pm, the asylum seekers living at the hostel near the wharf gate, including the pregnant lady from the hostel near the were placed on buses assembled at the wharf area t be taken to the Jakarta airport. It is understood that they will be taken by plane to the Tanjung Pinang detention centre later this afternoon or evening.

The Tanjung Pinang detention centre is the same detention centre that housed the Tamils from the Oceanic Viking while their refugee claims were being processed.

UNHCR has told the asylum seekers that they will begin registering them within 24 hours of being relocated and will have completed processing within two months.

Before disembarkation, Indonesian officials also told the asylum seekers that they would be re-settled within twelve months.

“The seven month stand by the Tamil asylum seekers has been courageous. Their defiance has killed off the Indonesian solution that Kevin Rudd tried to establish in October last year when he called the Indonesian president to intercept the boat. Ironically the Indonesian solution is one of the factors driving asylum seekers to leave Indonesia,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“They have defied the odds to ensure their refugee claims were not lost in the black hole of refugee processing in Indonesia. And the Indonesian government has made it clear there will be no repeat of either the Oceanic Viking or the Merak incidents

During the week, a letter from the Australian government was delivered to the Merak Tamils stating that the freeze on asylum application only applied in Australian and the best chance for processing and resettlement was to be had in Indonesia.

“Kevin Rudd now has the chance to live up to the offer in that letter. The Prime Minister and other ministers have stated that the Australian government will play a role in the re-settlement of those referred by the UNHCR.

“It should immediately provide assistance to the Indonesian government and the UNHCR to process outstanding asylum claims in Indonesia and commit to resettling those found to be refugees.”

For more information contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713.

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