Tamil refugees in Indonesian port begin hunger strike

[TamilNet, Thursday, 15 October 2009, 23:37 GMT]
The Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seekers caught by Indonesian authorities while trying to reach Christmas Island, Australia, and brought to the port city of Merak in western Java, have gone on a hunger strike, reports from Australian media said. “The group's spokesman, Alex, said all 222 men and women on board the cargo boat would refuse food until a Western country, such as Australia, promised to resettle them,” WAtoday an Australian online newspaper reported, and the site quoted the spokesperson as saying, "[w]e want a resolution from any foreign country that says they are willing to take us." The 31 Tamil children on board would not join the hunger strike, reports added.

The boat carrying Tamil refugees was intercepted by Indonesian Navy on Sunday near Karakatoa after an intelligence tip-off from Australia and a personal plea from Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, according to reports.

“The navy took the asylum seekers to the port city of Merak, in western Java. But the asylum seekers have since refused to leave the ship, fearing they will be deported back to Sri Lanka or forced to spend years in limbo in Indonesia while they wait for a third country to resettle them,” WAtoday said.

Several attempts by the Indonesian officials to coerce refugees off the boat have been spurned by the refugees as ruse to get the refugees to the shore and deport them.

“Earlier on Thursday, immigration officials said they would not forcibly remove the Sri Lankans from the boat. "There shall be no forcing, we are trying to be persuasive," said Harry Burwanto, head of the provincial immigration office, WAtoday said.

The spokesperson for the refugees said the Tamil refugees “chose to seek asylum in Australia because it was the only Western country they could afford to reach. Australians were aware of the "genocide, misery and brutality" occurring in Sri Lanka,” and appealed to the Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, to accept them as refugees, reports said.


External Links:
WAtoday: Tamil asylum seekers cry for help
AP: Sri Lankan migrants refuse to leave boat held in Indonesia, want Australia to take them

 

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