Tamil Solidarity strongly condemns the Australian and British governments’ statements about the refugees. While over 250,000 people are held under armed guard in concentration-style camps and over 30,000 young people are kept in secret camps and tortured, it is absolutely disgraceful to declare that Sri Lanka is a safe country for Tamil refugees.
Australian government has acted with total disregard for human values as they continue to ignore the plight of refugees held at its border. These refugees have undertaken a most dangerous journey just to save their lives and to secure a better future for their children. Not only does it appear that no consideration was given to these refugees but that the Australian government has also signed an agreement with the Sri Lankan government to control the refugees and has agreed to offer over a billion dollars in aid to Sri Lanka as a favour. The numbers of refugees are relatively small given the scale of the repression. It would not create huge costs for Australia to respect these people’s fundamental human rights. We demand that Australia immediately recognises the rights of these people.
Today an Indonesian navy officer informed the refugees in the boat at Merak harbour that they will not allow UNHCR to meet them. They also informed them that they will not allow any media personnel to meet them. This happened directly after Australia and Sri Lanka signed the refugees agreement. Now the refugees in the boat demand validity of that claim.
They are victims of the Sri Lankan government’s chauvinist policies and human rights violations. Now the so-called international community joins with the Sri Lankan government to infringe their human rights. Appalled by this, the people in the boat sent a statement (attached below) to all the governments. They feel let down by those they believed would respect their minimum rights, such as the right to a decent life and education for their children. Tamil Solidarity joins them in their disappointment and is equally appalled by their treatment. We demand the immediate granting of asylum status to these refugees.
Des Browne– defends Sri Lankan government as usual
Britain’s special envoy to Sri Lanka, Des Browne also came to the aid of the Australian and Sri Lankan governments and announced that: “We take the view that it is safe to return people, including Tamils, to Sri Lanka”. This announcement came just a week after a parliamentary debate held on camps in Sri Lanka. Michael Foster (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development) announced that they will cut aid. We continue to expose their utter hypocrisy and to warn that mainstream parties will not act in the interests of oppressed Tamil-speaking people(visit Westminster Hall debates on Sri Lanka (IDP Camps)). Now Des Browne is proving that point and clearly stating where the New Labour government stands.
He also announced that the international community will not support the call for a separate state for Tamil-speaking people within Sri Lanka. He urged the peoples of Sri Lanka to find a way to talk to this brutal government, adding that Sri Lanka is a “functioning democracy”. This claim is laughable. Even the Financial Times has described the current Sri Lankan government of Mahinda Rajapakse as an “elected dictatorship”. Tamil-speaking people around the world have shown what they think about this government. Even Tamil MPs in Sri Lanka call it a dictatorship of the Rajapakse family. Trade unions and left organisations, human rights organisations in Sri Lanka and around the world have strongly condemned the Sri Lankan government. It is totally irresponsible to defend the Sri Lankan government and say Sri Lanka is safe for Tamil-speaking people.
Write your condemnation to Des Browne MP. Please forward the above statement to everyone you know and ask them also to send their condemnation.
Please also forward the message you sent to Des Browne to Tamil Solidarity, so that we can also publish it. Our mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Email Des Browne MP: email@example.com
Telephone: 01563 520267
Fax: 01563 539439
Parliamentary Advice Centre
32 Grange Street
House of Commons
The following appeal letter is being sent to the government of countries who have signed up to the UN refugee convention.
Refugees are also human beings
As a result of the brutal attacks and human rights violations against the Tamil-speaking people in Sri Lanka a lot of people have lost their normal life, have lost their family, their relatives, their property and their right to education and more.
We, 254 people including children, pregnant women, the elderly and young men and women, are also a part of those people affected by the brutal war. We have suffered for years and in order to seek a better life on 1 October 2009 we embarked on a most dangerous sea journey to Australia, a country which has signed up on the UN refugee convention.
On 11 October 2009 our journey was intercepted by the Indonesian navy. Someone who claimed to be an officer from the Australian High Commission promised that he will talk to the Australian government regarding our fate and took us to Merak harbour on the island of Java. We informed them that we will not get off the boat until the Australian government grants us refugee status.
For the last month we have been waiting on the boat at sea with all sorts of difficulties and still we have not received any favourable outcome either from Australia or any country that respects human rights. The UNHCR, which is supposed to be an international organisation that looks after the plight of the refugees, has not only refused to recognise us as refugees, but has refused to treat us as human beings. This causes us immense suffering. We are also worried and afraid of the effect that the changes in the climate will have while we are still at sea.
The UNHCR must come to talk to us. We request that Australia or any other country grants us refuge. These are the basic things we demanded when we started a hunger strike. We gave up on the hunger strike when we were wrongly advised that this may be considered a threat. We do not intend to threaten anybody. All we demand is recognition of our plight and assistance. But we are not prepared to give up the fight for our rights.
Then we gathered and protested en masse which has been covered by the media around the world. But still we have been ignored. The hunger strike, the protest, everything we did has not brought us recognition from any country that genuinely respects human rights. Now we are writing this letter as another measure in the attempt to bring our plea to your attention.
We have no peace in our homeland. We have been refused our human rights and our children and young people have no future in our country. At least we want a better life for our children.
It is with great urgency that the UNHCR must come and meet us and listen to our plea. Remaining at sea, as the weather worsens, poses great danger and we plead with you that you consider our pathetic situation and that you take a favourable decision.
Signed Sri Lankan refugees.