Serious concerns for Merak Refugees
Media Release: Serious concerns for Merak Refugees threatened with deportation
Refugee Action Coalition
Sunday December 20, 12:00pm WST
Four Arrested Going To Hospital
Refugee activists have welcomed the news that all Oceanic Viking refugees are being released and re-settled.
“The speedy processing and re-settlement has shown that is not necessary for refugees to wait months and years in Indonesia,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.
But refugee activists have serious concerns for the fate of another four Merak refugees arrested last Tuesday night.
“Now the Rudd government must put in place proper processing for all asylum seekers in Indonesia. The attention on the Oceanic Viking has left other refugees’ lives in jeopardy,” said Ian Rintoul.
On Tuesday 15 December, four of the Merak asylum seekers left the wharf area with an Indonesian doctor to get medical treatment. Three others went to get clothing which is increasingly short supply on the boat.
The four asylum seekers and the doctor were arrested by the Indonesian police and taken to the Indonesian navy office in Merak. Two of the refugees have UNHCR refugee cards.
The doctor was released after questioning. The four asylum seekers were threatened with deportation by the navy officer in charge and have now been moved to Indonesian Immigration Head Office in Jakarta where they are being held in custody.
The doctor has been subject to further questioning and a further police inquiry is scheduled for Monday, 21 December. Indonesian human rights activists are attempting to gain access and provide legal support for the detainees.
There are serious concerns for the fate of those recently arrested.
Seven of eight Tamils who voluntarily left the Merak boat in November are in immigration detention in Jakarta and have not been seen by the UNHCR.
One of those asylum seekers who went back to Sri Lanka on 26 November after news that his mother was seriously ill. He was arrested at Colombo airport when he returned and has been kept incommunicado.
Since then Sri Lankan police have shot dead one Tamil asylum seeker on the beach in Sri Lanka as he was preparing to board a refugee boat.
“It is too dangerous for people to be returned to Sri Lanka. The Merak asylum seekers are the Rudd government's responsibility. It was Kevin Rudd’s call to the Indonesian president that stopped the boat. The Merak boat people are no different to the people on the Oceanic Viking.
“The Rudd government must work on an Australian solution, not the Indonesian solution. The Indonesian solution is a recipe for more misery and mistreatment with no certain outcome for the people detained. The Rudd government must insist that IOM provide the necessary humanitarian support for the Merak boat. Australia funds IOM but denying the Merak people assistance is creating a humanitarian crisis on the boat itself,” said Ian Rintoul.