‘Government may be forced to help resettle a group of Tamil refugees in Merak’ –admits Australian PM

Here we publish a press release from Safecom.

If this represents a change in policy by Kevin Rudd’s Labour government then it is a positive development. However, as the statement is unclear, no one should accept this at face value and celebrate a victory. We have to remain vigilante and keep an eye on what the Rudd government actually does.

Tamil Solidarity will carry on pressing the Australian government for concrete action and for asylum rights to be granted to the Merak refugees. We requested an official reply from the Australian High Commission in London as part of the international protest organised on Wednesday 10 March. We will post as soon as we get a reply.

Press Release: Project SafeCom
Rudd’s Merak Refugees Admission a Welcome Development

“Yesterday’s admission by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd – as reported this morning by The West Australian [1] – that Australia will need to assist Indonesia with the resettlement of the Sri Lankan asylum seekers in Merak harbour is a very welcome development in the long saga of the stand-off between the approximately 250 refugees and Indonesian authorities,” WA Human Rights group Project SafeCom said this morning.

[1] See http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/newshome/6782176/spies-to-take-on-people-smugglers/

“It is a relief to note that the Prime Minister finally sees sense in this, but Australia’s involvement needs to start with resolving the stand-off, so the asylum seekers, without the use of force or violence or manipulation, feel safe enough to come off their boat,” spokesman Jack H Smit said.

“It should be clear to all parties by now, that many of the people on board are already UNHCR refugees who are owed protection. This does not mean that all asylum seekers on the boat need to come to Australia, but the Merak situation should be a loud and clear message to Kevin Rudd and Immigration Minister Chris Evans about the absence of a thorough and comprehensive resettlement plan for the region, a plan that ought to be led by Australia with an urgent and pro-active sense of initiative.”

“The similarity between the microcosm of the ship and the bigger picture of the ever-growing pressure cooker in Indonesia of refugees arriving from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka is still worked under the table by Kevin Rudd and Chris Evans in fear of a backlash from the conservative opposition and the electorate, but there is no need for panic.”

“In a comprehensive resettlement plan, even if 60% of those stuck in Indonesia come to Australia, they will arrive by air – and nobody will bat an eyelid.”

“We need action from the Prime Minister, not promises and words, but action, and for Merak we need it fast.”