Monday, 7 December 2009

Merak Monsoon

The sit-in by the Tamil asylum seekers on board the Jaya Lestari, moored at Merak in western Java, is still going strong despite the start of the monsoon season in South-East Asia. Many of the 240-odd people on the rickety wooden boat may be wavering, especially those with children, but they know that they will inevitably end up in an Indonesian detention centre with little chance of improving their asylum chances, according to the Tamil's spokesperson Sanjeev "Alex" Kuhendrarajah. He cited the fact that the 8 people who had already left the Jaya Lestari and ended up in detention had yet to be seen by the UNHCR. This is also reinforced by the fact that none of those who left the Ocenanic Viking four weeks ago has had their refugee claims fully processed, despite the 'fast-track' deal hammered out between them and the Indonesian and Australian authorities stipulated processing within 4-6 weeks.

On the Australian mainland, amid the news that digital face and fingerprint scanning of asylum seekers living in Sydney and Melbourne is being introduced, comes the news that China is now officially the biggest source of migrants, eclipsing both New Zealand and the UK. In the four months to October 6350 new settlers arrived from mainland China, ten times the numbers of 'boat-people' that ended up on Christmas Island.

The main cause for this change in migration patterns is the large drop in UK migration cause by the Australian government's decision in March to cut 18,500 places from the skilled migration program for 2009-10. This significantly cut immigration from Britain as skilled migrants account for 80% of flights booked from the UK. Chinese migration on the other hand is dominated by family reunions and suffered less.

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