Tamils fleeing from Sri Lanka Government attacks were arrested in the waters of New Galan on Sunday (10th July). The boat, consisting of 76 men, 4 women and 4 children, made its way through Malaysia on the way to New Zealand.
Reuters photographs show the refugees holding up signs that read: “We need New Zealand”.
But Prime Minister John Key has responded emphatically: “They are not welcome”.
Indonesian freelance photojournalist Yuli Seperi said the immigrants did not want to abandon the ship and were asking the United Nations to help them reach New Zealand.
“We’re going to New Zealand, please help us,” cried some refugees, according to Seperi.
“We are not illegal immigrants, but refugees who will leave for New Zealand,” asylum seeker Romance Radan told media.
Another refugee from the boat, who had been living in Malaysia for two years, told media that his family had been killed in Sri Lanka. “Better I die here if asked to come down from the ship.”
It is understood representatives from the International Migration Organisation and Tanjung Pinang immigration were negotiating with them.
The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs said they were aware of the ship, but would not provide further information.
Prime Minister John Key said he had been briefed by intelligence officials and there were some indications that a boat full of asylum seekers had been heading towards New Zealand, though that had not been “absolutely confirmed”.
“I understand some of those asylum seekers were holding up New Zealand flags or signs saying they might want to go to New Zealand. Our very simple message is they are not welcome.”
Key confirmed the Indonesian navy had intercepted the boat and it had been tied up in port in Indonesia, “but what happens from here I don’t know”.