Monday, 19 April 2010

Merak Seige Ends

The six month long stand off in Merak Harbour between the Tamils on board the Jaya Lestari 5 and the Indonesian authorities appears to finally have come to an end today. The wooden boat was towed into the West Javan harbour last October after being intercepted by the Indonesian navy but the occupants refused to come ashore until they had received assurances that they would receive a similar deal to that agreed with the MV Oceanic Viking refugees. The survived the monsoon season and various attempts to get off the boat, all to no avail till now.

On the 7 April they were issued with an ultimatum that if they did not voluntarily leave the boat within 5 days force would be used to remove them. The men vowed to resist any attempts at forcible removal, moving back on to the boat from the tented village dockside that they had occupied as relief from the foetid conditions on board. However, announcement of the Australian Government's decision to suspend new refugee applications for Afghans and Sri Lankans prompted at least 30 of the men to jump ship and disappear.

Tense negotiations continued well past the deadline and no end appeared in sight until this morning (Java Time), when coaches arrive dockside and an unknown number of remaining Tamils began to board. The were taken to Jakarta airport and will be flown to the Australian-funded Tanjung Pinang detention centre on the Riau Islands. Their chances of gaining refugee status and making it to Australia appear very thin, given the UN's current stance that Sri Lanka is now 'safe' to return Tamils to and the posturing of all Australian politicians as their election approaches.

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