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April 21, 2010

MERAK TAMILS MADE IT TO CHRISTMAS ISLAND. UNHCR PROCESSING BEGINS AT TANJUNG PINANG. AUSTRALIAN LETTER HOLDS HOPE OF RESETTLEMENT

by refugeeactioncoalitionsydney

Media Release, April 21 2010

Refugee advocates today confirmed that around 50 Tamil asylum seekers from the boat at Merak made it to Christmas Island over the past weeks and that initial processing of their asylum claims has begun.

“Their arrival in Christmas Island is a tribute to their courage and determination They have defied Kevin Rudd’s attempt to subvert the Refugee Convention by denying them entry to Australia and they have blown a hole in the Indonesia Solution, “said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“The sorry saga of the Merak asylum seekers has revealed just how arbitrary Kevin Rudd’s refugee policy has become. The Merak asylum seekers were always Australia’s responsibility and their claim for asylum will now be determined in Australia. The really shameful part of this is that there claims should have been heard in October last year,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“Kevin Rudd’s phone call to stop the boat has inflicted six months of unnecessary misery on these asylum seekers. It has now left the 140 taken from the boat to Tanjung Pinang in limbo.

“The conditions at Tanjung Pinang are even worse than Curtin. Women and children have been separated from the men leaving husbands and fathers separated from their families. Men, women and children are behind bars, under 24 hour surveillance.

Up to 45 men are held together in on cell with bare concrete floor.

“ ‘We cannot stay here. We are not criminals. Please tell Kevin Rudd’, one asylum seeker told the Refugee Action Coalition from Tanjung Pinang, “The water is yellow – we are very worried about our health and the health of the children.’ ”

The Refugee Action Coalition was also told that there is also insufficient water for toilets and washing and bathing.

“UNHCR has lived up to its promise of registering people with 24 hours of their re-location. Officials expect to have completed registration by Saturday and have told the asylum seekers that processing will be completed by July,” said Rintoul.

“Kevin Rudd and other Ministers indicated that Australia will play a role in re-settling Merak refugees referred to the government by the UNHCR. A letter from the Australian government (attached) delivered to the boat days before disembarkation indicates that processing in Indonesia could secure resettlement in Australia. The ban of Sri Lankan visa processing is a farce. Sri Lankan refugees can be settled in Australian but they won’t be processed here.

“But most of the Merak asylum seekers will end up in Australia, just as the asylum seekers dumped on Nauru by the Howard government eventually were brought to Australia.

“The sooner the Australian government faces up to its responsibility the sooner the uncertainty will end for those in Tanjung Pinang.”

For more information contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713 or Sara Nathan 0412 236 703

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