Indonesia, Australia relocate Tamil refugees to isolated detention centres

[TamilNet, Monday, 19 April 2010, 13:59 GMT]
Indonesian authorities on Monday relocated more than 100 Tamil refugees in Merak, who have been refusing to leave their boat, to an undisclosed location, believed to be an Australian-funded detention centre on the Riau islands, near Singapore. Informed Tamil sources said that the refugees were being moved without any promise and that attempts to legal aid by the community was refused access during the process. Meanwhile, the Australian government, which had frozen asylum applications from Sri Lanka and Afghanistan a few days ago, on Sunday said it was reopening Curtin, an isolated detention centre in the sparsely populated far north of Western Australia, 1,800 km north of Perth to move the refugees from Christmas Island.

Australian of the Year, Professor Patrick McGorry, on Monday condemned the decision saying that the isolated detention centre is a "factory of mental illness," according to The Refugee Action Collective.

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, which earlier this month said it was reviewing the handling of Sri Lankan and Afghan refugees also expressed concerns on Monday stating that it was "deeply troubled" by the handling of Sri Lankan and Afghan refugees by Australia and said these measures were likely to have a negative impact on the health and wellbeing of asylum-seekers, particularly those who had already endured torture or trauma, the AFP reported.

"The combination of mandatory detention, suspension of asylum claims and the geographical isolation of detention facilities such as Curtin Air Force Base in Western Australia -- all without any effective judicial oversight -- is a deeply troubling set of factors," regional representative of UNHCR, Richard Towle, was quoted by the AFP as saying.

Earlier this month, the UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming had said the situation in Sri Lanka was changing and that it was reviewing its guidelines on refugees from the island and Afghanistan.

In Sri Lanka's case, current UNHCR guidelines were based on "the situation of generalised violence there -- basically that no Tamil should be returned forcibly, and that they should be considered individually, under the 1951 (refugee) convention," Flemming had earlier said, explaining that there was now "freedom of movement" and that many IDPs were "returning home."

 

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