Protest in London at Indonesian embassy-Manny Thain

Grant asylum rights to Tamil-speaking refugees in boat at Merak, Indonesia 

Manny Thain

 As part of an international day of action, Tamil Solidarity organised a protest outside the Indonesian embassy in London on Friday (4-12-2009).

A letter (see below) was handed to an embassy official, highlighting the plight of Sri Lankan Tamil-speaking refugees, whose boat was intercepted by the Indonesian navy on 11 October – with the collusion of the Australian government – and is now moored in Merak harbour, Indonesia. The 254 refugees include elderly people, young children and a pregnant woman. They have inadequate food, water and medical attention. The refugees want asylum rights. They planned to travel to Australia in the hope that they would be granted asylum and could live there without facing detention.

In Indonesia, a foreign office representative said that access to the UNHCR will only be allowed once the refugees have been verified. The refugees would have to leave the boat for verification. They have refused this for fear that they will be held in detention or forced to return to Sri Lanka, from where they fled war, prison camps and repression. The solidarity campaign will continue to demand that the rights of these suffering people are respected. Reports of other protests can be found on the Tamil Solidarity website.


Tamil Solidarity: for the rights of workers and all oppressed people in Sri Lanka

The Indonesian Embassy, 30 Grosvenor Square, London, W1K 2HW

4 December 2009

Dear Sir,

Protest in support of Tamils in a boat in Merak

We are protesting today outside the Indonesian Embassy in London to highlight the plight of 254 Tamil refugees on board a ship moored in the Indonesian harbour of Merak.

They have fled from Sri Lanka in the aftermath of a brutal civil war and in the face of increased repression. Hundreds of thousands of their fellow Tamil-speaking people are being held in prison camps by the Sri Lankan army. Conditions in these camps are horrific, with inadequate shelter, food, water, medical facilities and sanitation. Every day, monsoon rains threaten flooding and a humanitarian catastrophe.

The refugees were heading for Australia but, on 11 October, their boat was intercepted by the Indonesian navy. It is clear that the Australian and Indonesian governments colluded in this operation. Conditions on board are grim, with only one toilet, and inadequate food, water and medical attention, which should be provided by the Indonesian navy. Among the refugees are children and elderly people, 15 diabetics, and pregnant women.

The refugees demand their basic rights. They want access to humanitarian aid and adequate provisions while they are held on board. Above all, they want to go where they can live in relative security to provide a decent future for their children and families. They have been traumatised by the war which raged up to May this year, and the horror of seeing friends and family killed, injured, disappeared or held captive.

This letter from Tamil Solidarity records our deep concern for the welfare and rights of these and other Tamil-speaking refugees, and urges the Indonesian government to reconsider its position and allow them to continue their journey to Australia, where their asylum rights should be granted.

Tamil Solidarity is part of an international campaign organising a series of protests alongside other organisations at Indonesian embassies around the world, including Indonesia, Malaysia and Australia. We will continue to draw attention to the plight of Tamil-speaking people – and to the role played by the Indonesian and other governments.

Yours faithfully,

Manny Thain, Tamil Solidarity national secretary