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Six Organisations Issue Joint Statement

Merak, Indonesia Death of Asylum Seeker: Six Organisations Issue Joint Statement

A press conference of organisations concerned at the death of Merak asylum seeker George Jacob was held in the Jakarta Legal Aid office on 26 December.

The press conference follows angry scenes at the Merak boat between Indonesian police and asylum seekers after Indonesian authorities reneged on their agreement to allow a delegation of asylum seekers to view Jacob's body - a usual Tamil cultural practice.

The following is the joint statement issued for the press conference.

JOINT STATEMENT OF: The Working Peoples Association, Confederation Congress of Indonesia Union Alliance, Refugee Action Coalition, Australian Tamil Congress, Jakarta Legal Aid Institute, Legal Aid Foundation

Tragic Death Of Asylum Seeker At Merak Legacy Of The Indonesian Solution

Despite appeals to the Indonesian authority and the IOM from early morning Tuesday, 22 December 2009, access to health care was not given. Indonesian authorities and the IOM give various reasons why access to health care was hard to give. They said that they donft enough funds to give health care access. But previously they also said that the entire boat load of refugees should disembark to receive proper health care. The attitude of Indonesian authority and the IOM has resulted in the death of one refugee name George Jacob who died on Wednesday, 23 December 2009.

On Tuesday morning, 22 December 2009, Jacob was vomiting blood and asks for permission to go to the hospital. This condition continue and only on Wednesday, 23 December 2009 around 14:00, Jacob was taken to hospital. In hospital he was given several medication and was order to go back to the boat in Merak. A couple of hours later he vomited blood again but Indonesian authority and IOM reject to send him to hospital. Indonesia authority and IOM only bring him to a hostel near the harbor where IOM was stationed. Only after Jacob suffering from massive vomiting of blood, complete loss of sight and feeling very hot, though his body temperature was cooling drastically, epileptic seizure and begins to foam in his mouth that he was sent to hospital.

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This inhumane treatment is not the first time. But this time the inhumane treatment had fatal consequences. Previously, on 26-30 October 2009 the food supply was cut off to force the refugee disembark from the boat. Often health access was given very late, food was also not eatable and the lack of supply of basic needs for the refugee.

This incident highlighted the criminality cause by Indonesian Solution. A joint policy between Indonesia and Australia government. Under the Indonesian solution, the Australian is providing hundreds of millions of dollars for so-called border protection, stationing Australian federal police in Indonesia and asking the Indonesian government to intercept and detain asylum seekers who are traveling to Australia to seek protection.

When the Australian Oceanic Viking ship recently rescued Tamil asylum seekers, it insisted that they be landed on Indonesian territory. But Australia will not guarantee re-settlement of UNHCR refugees processed in Indonesia.

In early October, the Australian prime minister personally called the Indonesian President to ask that the Indonesian navy intercept a refugee boat of over 250 Tamils travelling to Christmas Island. Those people have been on their boat at Merak for over two and half months. Jacob was one of the Tamils on that boat. He is a victim of the Indonesian solution as are hundreds of other asylum seekers being warehoused for Australian in Indonesian detention centres.

Refugee activists, trade union and Left organization are demanding an end to the Indonesian solution, and that refugee boats should be welcome to Australia. Under the Refugee Convention it is not a crime to claim asylum in any country. Refugees in Indonesia and Australia should be freed from immigration detention.

There needs to be urgent humanitarian assistance for the boat at Merak and a guaranteed solution for their present situation.

Such a solution must include

- legal representation during Indonesian immigration verification;
- access to the UNHCR;
- a guarantee against arbitrary detention;
- support for basic needs while being processed, and
- a guarantee of non-refoulement (non return to danger) of asylum seekers.


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