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Failure of Howard & Rudd's Indonesian warehousing

Oceanic Viking 'UNHCR refugees' show up failure of Howard & Rudd's Indonesian warehousing

Media Release
Project SafeCom Inc.
Sunday November 1, 2009 7:30am WST
For immediate Release
No Embargoes

"The message from the 78 Sri Lankans on board the Oceanic Viking, in which they declare themselves to be registered UNHCR refugees who have been part of the thousands of others stuck for years in Indonesia, shows up the failure of John Howard's "push-back" policy of 1999-2000 onwards, as well as Kevin Rudd's Indonesian warehousing policy," WA Human Rights group Project SafeCom said this morning.

The Sri Lankans' message was given to Fairfax reporter Tom Allard yesterday evening (see report below).

"The message from the refugees shows up the inadequacy of Kevin Rudd's sinking of millions of dollars into 'people smuggling detection and disruption' in Indonesia instead of using sufficient manpower and financial investment to formulate a comprehensive resettlement plan, where Australia works together with UNHCR in Jakarta," spokesman Jack H Smit said.

"Years ago, Malcolm Fraser did what Kevin Rudd has up till now failed to do. Kevin Rudd and Chris Evans can still change their direction and implement such a resettlement plan. This plan needs to include a considerable increase of Australia's annual intake for the next couple of years to clear the backlog of claims."

"This backlog has created the untenable situation for the Sri Lankans we now see played out, and it has created a great deal of misery for the more than 3,000 others stuck in many facilities in Indonesia."

"The Sri Lankans are not 'demanding and difficult people' as some have suggested. They are UNHCR refugees who want resettlement in a country where they are safe - a country that has signed the United Nations Refugee Convention. This is not extraordinary or demanding, this is the promise made to them under the Convention," Mr Smit concluded.

Tamils send a message to Rudd

Sydney Morning Herald
Tom Allard in Tanjung Pinang
November 1, 2009

MOST of the Sri Lankan asylum seekers in a stand-off with Australian authorities off the coast of the Riau Islands have been living in Indonesia for years, providing the Rudd Government with leverage to convince Indonesia to take them back.

Australian officials see the development as a possible circuit-breaker to the two-week impasse that has caused the Government much political and diplomatic anguish.

In written messages thrown off the Oceanic Viking, the Australian Customs ship housing 78 ethnic Tamils for the past two weeks, asylum seekers said they had been living in Indonesia for up to five years and had been accepted by the United Nations office in Jakarta as genuine refugees. They said they hired a people smuggler out of their frustration that no country would accept them.

© Scoop Media

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