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Tamil refugees in desperate situation
TAMIL-SPEAKING refugees remain on a boat in the Indonesian harbour of Merak, denied their fundamental human rights.
Senan, Tamil Solidarity
The 255 refugees have undertaken a dangerous journey from Sri Lanka to save their lives and to secure a better future for their children. Seeking asylum, they refuse to leave the boat until they have a guarantee that they will not be detained in camps or returned to Sri Lanka.
The situation facing Tamil-speaking refugees fleeing the atrocious repression of the Sri Lankan government is worsening. Since the end of the war in May 2009, over 250,000 people are held under armed guard in open air prison camps.
Every voice of dissent is crushed in a horrific programme of killings and kidnappings across the country. Meanwhile governments across the world are lining up in support of the Sri Lankan government.
Disgracefully Britain's special envoy to Sri Lanka, Des Browne, announced that: "We take the view that it is safe to return people, including Tamils, to Sri Lanka". He urged the people of Sri Lanka to find a way to talk to this brutal government, adding that Sri Lanka is a "functioning democracy". This claim is laughable. Even the Financial Times has described the current Sri Lankan government of Mahinda Rajapakse as an "elected dictatorship".
The Australian government, from whom the refugees hoped to get asylum, has signed an agreement with the Sri Lankan government to control Tamil refugees and has agreed to offer over $1 billion in aid to Sri Lanka.
Following this agreement an Indonesian navy officer informed the refugees that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) would not be allowed to meet them. The refugees were also informed that no media personnel would be permitted to visit the boat.
Tamil Solidarity has learned that the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has closed its base at Merak harbour, where it provided food and other basics for the refugees.
This development poses a serious threat to the health of the refugees, including children and one pregnant woman. Already the food they were given was not adequate.
The IOM, while on the one hand helping the refugees with food and clothes, also insisted that the refugees should get off the boat.
It appears there is an attempt to starve the refugees out of the boat. Despite the harsh conditions, the refugees are determined to carry on fighting for their rights.
Tamil Solidarity urges the IOM to return immediately and to improve the quality of the food they supply.
We demand that the Australian government brings about a resolution of the situation in favour of the refugees as soon as possible.
We also demand that UNHCR gets involved in the negotiations.
See www.tamilsolidarity.org for further information and for details of where to send protest letters to the British, Indonesian and Australian governments and for reports of protests.
In The Socialist 18 November 2009:
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