Two hundred and fifty four Sri Lankan Tamil-speaking refugees have been trapped on a tiny boat in the port of Merak in Indonesia for almost 150 days.
They have been detained as a direct result of a request by the Australian prime minister, Kevin Rudd, to the Indonesian president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The refugees are threatened with being incarcerated in a horrific detention centre or sent back to Sri Lanka where life had become unbearable during the war. They could still faceunpredictable punishment including being kidnapped and tortured
These refugees are demanding respect for their right to have a decent life, freedom of movement and education for their children - basic rights that everyone on the planet deserves. Crammed into the boat, in all weathers, they fear storms and other disasters. They are being constantly menaced by the Indonesian navy. They fear the boat can be boarded and all of them arrested. Activists who travelled from Australiato Merak to help the refugees have been deported. Journalists and humanitarian activists have been denied access to them.
To find out more about the conditions of the refugees and the situation they find themselves in, please visit www.tamilsolidarity.org.
An international day of action to condemn the inhuman treatment of these refugees has been called for the 10 March to mark the 150th day at sea. Please participate in protests in front of Australian embassies on that date.
A letter of protest has also been produced to send to the Australian prime minister for International Woman’s Day - 8 March complaining about the callous disregard for the plight of women and children on the boat. (See below).
To Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Canberra ACT 2600,
Dear Prime Minister Rudd,
I/we am/are writing to you with regards to the horrific situation facing 254 Tamil-speaking refugees on a boat in Merak, Indonesia.
On International Women’s Day I am/we are expressing anger at the cruel treatment of so many women and their children. I/we call on you to take action to assist these people, who have been crammed on a 40-person boat for almost 150 days. They are fleeing the racist and chauvinist brutality of the Sri Lankan government which has been described as no more than an “elected dictatorship”. One of the women on the boat is pregnant and distressed about giving birth in such an atrocious situation.
You would not expect a dog to live in the conditions they have suffered, without adequate sanitation facilities, food or medical attention. The human rights of all of them are being grossly trampled upon.
These people want a decent life. The war and violence in Sri Lanka is not of their making. But they are being made to suffer. They fear that, under the terms of your ‘Indonesian solution’, they will face detention or be forced to return to Sri Lanka should they disembark.
Do not turn your back on these people any longer! Their suffering must not be allowed to continue.
I/we call on the Australian government to immediately:
(i) Instruct the International Organisation for Migration to provide medical and humanitarian assistance to the asylum seekers on the boat.
(ii) Offer immediate resettlement to those people who have refugee status.
(iii) Commit yourself to processing claims and resettling the remaining people within clearly stated and reasonable timelines and conditions.
(iv) Transfer the asylum seekers from the boat to safe and free asylum in Australia.
(v) Terminate the ‘Indonesian solution’ arrangements so that no other people suffer in this way.
On Wednesday I/we will be supporting the international day of action to mark the 150th day on the boat for these refugees. Trade unions, student unions and other organisations will be protesting at Australian embassies around the world. Act now to help these desperate people and let your actions give us cause for celebrating the fact that respect is finally restored for their basic human rights.
I/we await your reply,