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Posted on 24 December 2009 at 10:36 GMT

Tamil refugee dies in Merak Indonesia

Widespread condemnation mounts over negligence

Mr Jacob Christine, 29, who has been trapped on a boat for more than two months in Merak, Indonesia, died today in hospital.

For the last three days he has been suffering from diarrhea and has been unable to eat the inedible and unhealthy food provided for him and the 253 other refugees crammed on the boat.

Despite repeated requests, the authorities did not provide the necessary medical facilities. Only at the last minute, and in a critical state, was Mr Jacob Christine taken to hospital. This death is a direct result of the negligence of the Indonesian authorities and the so-called humanitarian agencies.

Working Peoples Association (PRP), Confederation Congress of Indonesia Union Alliance (KASBI), in Indonesia, the Socialist Party and its sister parties in the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI), Students Against Genocide of Tamils (SAGT), Queen Mary University Students Union in London, UK, Tamil Solidarity, and other activists around the world joined today in outrage at this unnecessary death.

They condemned the hypocrisy of the Australian government that has refused to honour its responsibilities under the UN convention for the refugees.

After fleeing one of the most brutal wars in the region, these refugees have been forced to live in inhumane conditions for more than two months.

The Australian government is to be blamed for this tragedy.

Kumar, also in the boat in Merak, stated that the other refugees are greatly saddened by this tragic loss and fear for their lives.

They expressed a heartfelt sympathy for the family of Mr Jacob Christine. Kumar stated that: "we embarked on a journey from hell to escape death at the hands of the chauvinist Sri Lankan government.

Now we are facing death by starvation and disease, forced on us by those we hoped would provide us with the means to build a future.

Time and time again we have complained of the lack of medical supplies and of our deteriorating health.

We have been ignored by all the authorities. Is it a crime to ask for a decent life? All we are asking for is a chance for our children to have a decent future.

We feel that we are condemned to death. Where is the so-called concern for human rights that these governments claim? Where is UNHCR that is supposed to defend our rights? Are our lives not worth protecting? The Australian government should openly say what it wants to do with us.

Will it slowly bury us all in the Merak sea or will it respect our fundamental human rights? We have lost our loved ones to the dictatorial warmongering Rajapakse regime.

Mr Kevin Rudd and his government should not lend their hand to continue the repression."

Joe Higgins, MEP for Dublin, Ireland, expressed his sympathy for the family of Mr Jacob Christine. He also condemned the Australian government for its direct responsibility for the death. He stated: "The Australian government has signed up to the refugee convention and is in clear violation of its commitments.

I am appalled by the death of Mr Jacob Christine and send my condolences to his family and to those on the boat.

I urge the Australian and the Indonesian governments to take immediate steps to avoid further suffering.

All the remaining refugees must be treated respectfully. Proper medical and food supplies must be provided and their refugee claims must be processed by the Australian government immediately.

In my capacity as an MEP I will be taking this issue up and will bring whatever pressure I can to bear on the agencies and governments involved".

Dave Nellist, Socialist Party councillor in Coventry, UK, was joined by numerous other activists in expressing anger at this death.

"This tragedy could have been completely avoided had decisive action has been taken to resolve the refugees' basic demands for rights."

It has been more than two months since the Indonesian navy intercepted a refugee boat with 254 Tamil-speaking people heading for 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.

For contacts : Senan@tamilsolidarity.org, 07908050217
To contact Joe Higgins
E-mail: info@joehiggins.eu, Phone: 01-6795030

Post: 150 Pearse Street, Dublin 2

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