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Cablegate: Sri Lankan Irregular Migrants Stopped By

VZCZCXRO9692
OO RUEHDT RUEHPB
DE RUEHJA #1728 2871158
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 141158Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY JAKARTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3582
INFO RUCNARF/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO PRIORITY 1603
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA PRIORITY 1628
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 2724
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS JAKARTA 001728

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP, EAP/MTS, EAP/MLS, EAP/PD, EAP/RSP, DRL
NSC FOR D. WALTON

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PREF ID BM CE AF
SUBJECT: SRI LANKAN IRREGULAR MIGRANTS STOPPED BY
INDONESIAN NAVY

REF: JAKARTA 00988 AND PREVIOUS

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Irregular migrants from Sri Lanka are
swelling the number of potential refugees seeking to transit
Indonesia on their way to Australia. On October 12 an
Indonesian warship intercepted a cargo ship that was carrying
253 Sri Lankan refugees in the Sunda Strait between West Java
and Southern Sumatra. The Indonesian navy was reportedly
tipped off by Australian Prime Minister Rudd, who called
President Yudhyono over the weekend. The migrants are
refusing to get off the ship for fear that they will be
detained while the UNHCR investigates. As reported reftel,
Indonesian immigration officials work closely with the
International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UNHCR and
irregular migrants are generally treated well while in
Indonesia. END SUMMARY

NUMBER OF IRREGULAR MIGRANTS CONTINUES TO GROW

2. (SBU) As reported reftel, the number of irregular migrants
transiting Indonesia on their way to Australia this year is
on pace to quadruple over last year, primarily due to a surge
from Afghanistan and other areas of conflict in South Asia.
Beginning in May 2009, migrants from Sri Lanka are also
adding to these numbers. (Note: 55 Sri Lankan men landed in
Aceh in May.) Prime Minister Rudd called President Yudhoyono
over the weekend to let him know that undocumented intending
immigrants were heading for the Sunda Strait, between West
Java and Southern Sumatra. An Indonesian warship intercepted
the cargo ship and led it to port in Banten, West Java. The
Australians and Indonesians last met in July to discuss ways
to stop the flow of irregular migrants.

SRI LANKANS FEARFUL OF BEING CAUGHT IN UNHCR PROCESS

3. (SBU) Although the press has reported that the irregular
migrants would be kept in Banten and then transferred to an
immigration detention center, Post's contact stated that only
eight of the 253 refugees had disembarked. All eight,
including one pregnant woman, were taken to a local hospital
while the others hunkered down on the boat. Fueling the
refugees' fears of being caught in limbo were reports that if
they landed in Indonesia they would be turned over to the
UNHCR for processing. In June 2009 the UNHCR began to
process the above-mentioned 55 Sri Lankan refugees, many of
whom are still waiting to be settled.

INDONESIAN IMMIGRATION WORKS TO FOLLOW THE RULES

4. (SBU) Immigration officials told us that they hoped to
resolve this situation as quickly as possible. The IOM has
been notified and is on standby to assist when the refugees
disembark. The GOI will wait until the irregular immigrants
are on Indonesian soil before requesting UNHCR assistance.


OSIUS

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