Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Oceanic Viking Tamils On The Move/Merak Update

After a period of uncertainty and delay, the bulk of the Oceanic Viking Tamils have been moved out of the Tanjung Pinang detention centre in Indonesia prior to their resettlement. So far 15 have been processed, with 13 going to Canada and 2 to Australia. Now 47 more are due to fly to their final destinations today, although there is some confusion in the press over who is going where. We understand that there are 2 groups of 16 and 31, who are either going to be flown to Australia or to Romania, for onward settlement in Canada and the US. The Indonesian media claim that the larger group are destined for Australia whilst the Australian media say it is the smaller group. Time will tell which is right.

Meanwhile the Merak stand-off continues. Following the death of one of the refugees last week from what is believed to have been complications from a stomach ulcer, the pressure on the Indonesian authorities to come up with a solution has intensified. The Indonesians at the weekend are understood to have again discussed the possibility of using force to end the situation. At the same time are pressuring the Australians to help them out of their predicament, calling on them to to stick to the spirit of the negotiations over the Oceanic Viking asylum seekers and help deal with the Merak refugees: "The Sri Lankans in Merak, they have some expectations, whether that expectation can be met or not," a Foreign Ministry spokesman is quoted as saying. However, Australia is sticking to their line that it is Indonesia's problem.

The Indonesian government are also refusing to involve the UNHCR in the process until the Merak Tamils let them on board their boat, something that the Tamils are refusing to allow, especially given Indonesia's intransigence involving food and medical aid and the military's previous attempts at intimidating them into leaving the boat (see previous posts). Additionally, the 11 Tamils who have already voluntarily left the Jaya Lestari in October are being held in a single crowded cell in the Jakarta immigration headquarters, despite assurances that they would be held in an International Organisation for Migration hostel, not in detention.

Representatives of the Australian Tamil Congress, who organised a support demonstration yesterday outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta, have visited the detained men and confirm that they spent the first 2 week after leaving the boat in the IOM hostel but were then detained by the Indonesian authorities in "inhumane" conditions.

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