Hunger Strike Ends but Indonesia Denies Access

Published: Wed 11 Nov 2009 02:10 PM
Hunger Strike Ends but Indonesia Denies Access to UNHCR
Survey shows Merak Asylum Seekers are UNHCR refugees
A survey of the 250 mostly Tamil asylum seekers on the boat at Merak has revealed that, like those on the Oceanic Viking, many of them have been assessed as refugees by the UNHCR.
Of the more than 250, 107 have been granted refuge status by the UNHCR in Malaysia and two by UNHCR in Thailand. Another 24 have letters saying their refugee assessment is in its final stages.
Some names, including a Tamil family of six, has been forwarded to the UNHCR Canberra for confirmation and action. Reports indicate that most of the refugees have been in Malaysia for at least two years. One at least has been there for seven years.
Hunger Strike Ends after Meeting Indonesian Human Rights Commission
The revelations come as Indonesian authorities in Merak told the asylum seekers that the UNHCR will never be allowed to see them while they are on the boat.
"They are really trying to pressure us to leave the boat. But there is no future for us in Indonesia," the spokesperson for the asylum seekers, Alex, told the Refugee Action Coalition by phone.
The ban on the UNHCR came after the hunger strike by 10 women on the boat was ended following a meeting with a representative of the Indonesian Human Rights Commission. That representative told the asylum seekers that he would seek meeting with the Indonesia Foreign Minister to ensure that UNHCR be allowed access to the boat. A date is yet to be set for that meeting.
Meanwhile, the media has also been restricted from the Merak port, as have representatives of human rights organisations that have been supporting the boat people.
"Why won’t the Australian government call on the Indonesian government to give the UNHCR access to the people on the boat?" asked Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.
"Kevin Rudd is spending a lot of time trying to save face while inflicting more misery on the asylum seekers in Merak and on the Oceanic Viking. All Stephen Smith’s visit to Sri Lanka has done is hand $11 million to, and legitimize, a government that the world holds responsible for atrocities against the Tamils," said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.
"Now the Australian government is guilty of forum shopping - trying to pressure third countries to take the asylum seekers that are Australia’s responsibility. It’s no wonder New Zealand said no. He should stop bullying Indonesia and the Philippines and start living up to his claim to be humane towards refugees."

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