by GRANT MORGAN
Socialist Worker-New Zealand
Over 250 Tamils fleeing persecution in Sri Lanka’s bloody ethnic conflict are being detained at gunpoint on a small boat in the Indonesian port of Merak. They have been held against their will in Merak since 11 October 2009.
31 children, 30 women and 193 men must take turns sleeping on the boat’s deck because of the cramped conditions. They lack adequate food, water and medicines. Their human plight is desperate.
One man, aged 29, died after being refused proper hospital treatment on shore. Four others, leaving the boat to seek medicines and supplies, were arrested. Another, who upon hearing of his mother’s serious illness returned to Sri Lanka, was thrown into jail over there.
The Tamils were sailing to Australia to ask for asylum when Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd personally requested the Indonesian Navy to intercept the boat in international waters.
The Australian government is pursuing the “Indonesian solution”: pay hundreds of millions of dollars to the state of Indonesia to intercept asylum seekers before they reach Australian territorial waters.
Behind the scenes, the New Zealand government is playing along with the Australian state’s “Indonesian solution”.
In the face of the human plight of the Tamil asylum seekers, the governments of Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand are acting in a way that is not only immoral but also illegal.
Under the United Nations Refugee Convention, it is lawful to claim asylum in any country.Yet this international law is being flouted by the Indonesian and Australian governments, with covert backing from the New Zealand government.
Grassroots coalitions in Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia, Canada, United States, England and New Zealand are protesting the shameful and unlawful treatment of these Tamil asylum seekers.
These coalitions are calling for:
- Legal representation for asylum seekers in Indonesia.
- Access to the UN High Commission for Refugees.
- Guarantee against arbitrary detention.
- Support for basic needs while being processed.
- Guarantee of non-return to danger for asylum seekers.