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April 10, 2012

MERAK AFGHAN ASYLUM SEEKERS CALL FOR AUSTRALIA TO PROVIDE URGENT HELP

by refugeeactioncoalitionsydney

One hundred and twenty Afghan asylum seekers stranded on a Singaporean ship in Merak have appealed to the UNHCR, and the Australian government for urgent help.

The asylum boat was in international waters on its way to Christmas Island when Australian authorities requested that the Singapore bound ship assist the sinking asylum boat.

Indonesian police attempted to forcibly remove the asylum seekers on Monday morning, but people were shouting and screaming and refused to leave the ship. The 120 people are refusing to disembark and have appealed to the UNHCR and the Australian government for assistance.

“We are very worried that Indonesian police will forcibly take people to prison if we leave the ship,” the Refugee Action Coalition was told on Monday evening.

“We were on the way to Christmas Island and want to go to Australia. We want to see someone from the Australian embassy. If the police come again in the morning, they will be resisted,” RAC was told.

“We cannot go back to Afghanistan, we cannot survive in [an] Indonesia prison. We have asked to see the UNHCR and the IOM, but no-one has come to us,” the asylum seeker said.

“We don’t want a repeat of the 2009 Merak incident,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition. “All of Tamils on the Jaya Lestari 5 were found to be refugees, they left their boat and were kept in detention in Tanjung Pinang for a year. There are still around 130 of them are languishing in Indonesia although Australia promised to resettle them,” said Ian Rintoul, from the Refugee Action Coalition.

“We appeal to the Indonesian government to treat these Afghan asylum seekers with compassion and to request that the Australian government provide immediate assistance to take them to Australia.

“Australia has a responsibility to the 120 on the ship at Merak. In 2009, the Australian government left the Indonesian government and the Tamil refugees in the lurch.

For more information contact Ian Rintoul mob 0417 275 713

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