Merak Tamil refugees demand fundamental right to health-care, safety

[TamilNet, Friday, 18 December 2009, 12:35 GMT]
Two hundred and fifty four Tamil boat refugees who fled the war in Sri Lanka and currently held in a boat at the Indonesian Port of Merak after being intercepted by Indonesian Navy, demanded in a press release issued Thursday, that they are want "respect for their fundamental rights," and added that they are not "asking for anything more than a guarantee to live in a safe place and to safeguard the future of their kids. It is absolutely inhumane to deny this right to anybody."

Merak Tamil refugees

Full text of the press release follows:

It has been more than two months since the Indonesian Navy intercepted a refugee boat with 254 people heading to Australia. Until now this boat has been kept in Merak by the Indonesian authorities. The refugees have made it clear that all they want is respect for their fundamental rights. They are not asking for anything more than a guarantee to live in a safe place and to safeguard the future of their kids. It is absolutely inhumane to deny this right to anybody. These refugees were fleeing one of the most horrific conflicts in the world and have gone through a horrendous journey to get this far. They believed they would have a decent life once they get out of Sri Lanka. But their suffering continues.

Their boat is very small and in no way can accommodate 254 people. It was hard enough traveling in that small boat, but now they have been forced to live on it for more than two months. There is only one toilet. The health conditions of many people are deteriorating. Many are suffering from diarrhoea. The health of the children is at risk. Recently a ten year old girl and her mum were treated inappropriately by one of the Indonesian officers who threatened them with harsh actions if they openly talked about it. The officers have refused to take another nine months old baby to hospital despite a high temperature and desperate pleas from the parents. The refugees have to engage in a bitter battle with the guards just to call an ambulance or to arrange for seriously ill patients to be taken to hospital. Proper medical facilities are not arranged by the Indonesian government or any humanitarian agencies.

The food they are given is of a very low standard and it is only one type of food they are asked to eat every day. The refugees have been horrified and shocked by their treatment. After suffering for so long they hoped for a decent life. Now they fear that they will end up in Indonesian detention centers, which is as bad as the Sri Lankan government's detention centers. Now the Christmas holidays are nearing they fear that the lack of media and international attention will be used by the Indonesian authorities to harm them.

Merak Tamil refugees
Merak Tamil refugees
Merak Tamil refugees
Merak Tamil refugees


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