Tamil refugees trapped at sea for weeks


On 9 July 4am local time, the Indonesian navy seized a boat carrying 87 Tamils sailing towardsNew Zealand. The boat was in international waters at the time. Among the 87 people on board are one pregnant woman whose delivery date is next week, five more women, six children and several elderly people. The Indonesian navy forced the boat out of international waters and intoTanjung Pinang,Indonesia.

The 87 refugees are refusing to leave the boat, demanding they are allowed to continue travelling toNew Zealand, and exercising their right to choose the country in which they claim asylum.

For over a month, they have managed to live with the food and drink which they took with them. This is now running out. The rice they have is infested with bugs. Two people have already been taken to hospital because they have eaten unfit food. Several are suffering from diarrhoea or other illnesses. The refugees’ fuel has run out and they have begun using wood from the boat for cooking and other needs.

We are calling on the United Nations (UN) and its organisations, such as its refugee agency the UNHCR. The UNHCR, and other aid agencies as appropriate, should immediately have access to these people to supply proper food and medical services, and to consider their demands. The lives and futures of these 87 people are at risk. There can be no delay to act.

Tamil Solidarity was previously involved in the campaign to protect the rights of refugees who were similarly stopped by the Indonesian navy acting in collaboration with the Australian government. Although the Australian government wrote to Tamil Solidarity promising support for the refugees (http://tamilsolidarity.org/?p=1100), the process of asylum applications and for resettling refugees has been painfully long. It has adversely effected the education and future of the young people.

The Indonesian government, acting in collaboration with the Australian and New Zeeland governments, continues to disregard the rights of refugees. As it has not signed the UN convention on refugees, those held in Indonesia are in real danger as they may be handed over to the brutal regime they have fled from. In the past, the Indonesian government has allowed Sri Lankan officials to interrogate Tamil-speaking refugees. Through the so-called ‘Indonesian solution’ and ‘Malaysian solution’, both the Australian and New Zeeland governments are scandalously trying to avoid their responsibilities. This must stop now.

We demand that the Indonesian government provides humanitarian aid to the asylum seekers in the form of protection and accommodation while they are on Indonesian territory.

The Indonesian government must honour the conditions set out in the UN convention on refugees.

The UNHCR must be allowed to speak to the refugees directly and the resettlement process must be speeded up.

All families must be given a decent opportunity to restart their life.

Those who want to find out more – or want to help with this campaign – please contact Tamil Solidarity at info@tamilsolidarity.org