More than 100 refugees, who have been held in a tiny boat near Merak port in Indonesia for over seven months, have been moved to the Tanjung Pinang detention centre. They now face very bad conditions.
The immigration authorities have divided the refugees into small groups, separating family members, even children from their parents. Around 45 people are crammed into a hall. The authorities have restricted all freedom of movement for the refugees, breaking the deal they made with the refugees prior to the transfer. The refugees are now unable to communicate with the outside world and have no access to legal aid representatives.
The immigration authorities have told the refugees that their resettlement may take up to a year! There is widespread fear that the Indonesian government will allow Sri Lankan government agents to interrogate the refugees.
Since 11 October 2009 these refugees have been held in a tiny boat. They suffered immensely at the hands of the brutal Sri Lankan regime. Then, for the last seven months they have suffered from malnutrition, skin conditions, etc. One refugee, Mr Jacob Christian, died due to the negligence of the Indonesian authorities. Now the unbearable ordeal continues for these poor people in the detention centre in Tanjung Pinang.
Australia has shown total disregard for these refugees. Shamefully it recently announced that it will suspend the processing of any applications from refugees coming from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. This is a complete violation of the International Convention for Refugees, to which Australia is a signatory. Through a disgraceful tactic called the ‘Indonesian solution’ Australia continues to give millions of dollars to the Indonesian authorities to intercept and detain refugees travelling to Australia.
Indonesia is not a signatory to the International Refugee Convention and feel that it has no obligation to treat the refugees humanely. Kumar, one of the spokespersons for the refugees, said: “Even animals would not be treated in the way we have been treated and disregarded by many governments. We have continued to beg all those governments who claim to defend fundamental human rights to allow us to lead a decent live. But so far we have been let down by all”. He also added that: “We are not asking for any privileges. All we are asking for is freedom of movement and the opportunity for our kids to get an education. We are fleeing from brutal persecution to find a peaceful life. We should not be used as bargaining chips between countries and to continue to suffer’.
The Australian government has been accused of ‘refugee-bashing’, and some say that its attack on refugees is an attempt to secure the support of right-wing voters in the coming election this year.
Please send your protest Letters/Emails to the Australian/Indonesian governments and the UNHCR.
Please also phone the authorities to express your protest regarding the ill treatment of the refugees.
MEP condemns Indonesian and Australian governments
Joe Higgins, MEP for Dublin who has been speaking out against the Sri Lankan government atrocities also expressed his anger and send his protest letter to the Australian and Indonesian Authorities. Below is a copy of the letter he sent. Those who want to send their protest letters can also attach or use quotes from Joe Higgins’ letter.
I am writing to protest against the horrific treatment of Tamil-speaking refugees in Indonesia. Keeping refugees who are fleeing persecution and war in terrible conditions is inhumane and unacceptable.
Previously I had come to understand that the refugees in Merak port had been moved and that they were promised fundamental rights, such as freedom of movement, safe food and water. I also understood that the UNHCR would be allowed to process their refugee claims within 24 hours. These demands are very basic, but also essential.
But I have now learnt that the refugees have been transferred to a detention centre in Tanjung Pinang and are still living in bad conditions. Families have been separated and communication and freedom of movement prevented. This represents further outrageous treatment of these people.
I request that under no circumstances the Sri Lankan authorities should be allowed to interrogate the refugees.
I also urge the UNHCR in Indonesia to act in the interests of the refugees. The UNHCR should protest against the delays with the processing of the claims and demand that permission to process the refugee applications be granted immediately.
I am appalled by the Australian government’s continued inaction on this matter. Furthermore I strongly condemn the recent decision to suspend the processing of refugee applications from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.
The European Commission suspended the GSP+ tariff concessions to Sri Lanka on the basis of the poor human rights record of the Sri Lankan government. Many members of the European Parliament, including myself, strongly condemned the Sri Lankan government for human rights violations. I believe the Australian government’s decision to attack the rights of refugees is illegal and inhumane. The Australian government should immediately stop scapegoating refugees and scrap the so called ‘Indonesian solution’, a tactical measure to prevent refugees entering Australia.
The inhumane treatment of refugees in Indonesia must stop immediately. All the refugees’ applications in Tanjung Pinang must be processed and they should be resettled immediately.
If actions are not taken I will raise this matter with my colleagues and will bring this matter to the attention of the European Parliament. I hope the Indonesian and Australian governments will avoid embarrassment and take the required action immediately.
I await your response in anticipation,
Joe Higgins MEP
Member of the European Parliament from Ireland
Socialist Party (Ireland)
Below are the contact details for protests:
United Nation Communications Office
Menara Thamrin, 10th Floor
Jl. M.H. Thamrin Kav.3
Jakarta 10250, Indonesia
President of Indonesia:
Dr. H. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
President of the Republic of Indonesia
Jl. Medan Merdeka Utara
Jakarta Pusat 10010
Tel: + 62 21 3845627
+ 62 21 3845627 ext 1003
Fax: + 62 21 3457782
Foreign ministry email
The Hon. Kevin Rudd MP
CANBERRA ACT 2600
Minister for Foreign Affairs; Deputy Leader of the House.
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Canberra ACT 2600
Tel: (02) 6277 7500 (02) 6277 7500
Fax: (02) 6273 4112