Sunday, 18 October 2009

Indonesian Tamil Hunger Strikers Update

It appears that the Tamils aboard the wooden boat in Merak harbour in West Java have ended the hunger strike, mainly due to representations from the international Tamil community saying that what started out as a peaceful protest was harming the image of the people on the boat.* The Tamils have started taking food form the Indonesian authorities but are still refusing to leave the boat until they receive a visit from the UNHCR.

Australia has also managed to find a solution to another stand off, this one between themselves and the Indonesian authorities over the 78 asylum seekers rescued by HMAS Armidale in the Sunda Strait after distress calls were received by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority on Sunday. The asylum seekers were transferred aboard the Australian customs vessel Oceanic Viking, whilst the 2 governments argued over who was going to take them against the backdrop of a ceremonial visit by Kevin Rudd, the Australian PM, and other regional leaders for the inauguration of the recently re-elected Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The impasse was eventually broken with the Indonesian agreeing to accept the 78 migrants, citing the plight of a sick child on board.

* You can listen to a particularly unpleasant interview by Mark Colvin from Australian ABC Radio with Alex from the Tamils, displaying all the usual prejudices and misconceptions - 'jumping to the head of the queue', that the 20 million refugees around the world all want to go to countries like Australia, that they paid $15,000 are are somehow less worthy, etc.

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