Three Sri Lankan Navy officers have been allowed access to Sri Lankan Tamil refugees currently in Immigration Detention in Jakarta in Indonesia.
The asylum seekers have fled persecution by the Sri Lankan government, yet Captain Kapil from the Sri Lankan Embassy along with two other Sri Lankan Navy officers were brought into the Indonesian detention facility by Indonesian Immigration Officials today. While the other two Navy officers stayed outside, Capt Kapil held discussions with 8 Tamil asylum seekers who had completed Indonesian immigration forms two days prior. These 8 asylum seekers had disembarked from the boat currently moored at Merak in Indonesia several weeks ago.
Another 244 asylum seekers are still on the boat refusing to leave for fear of being sent back to Sri Lanka. They are pleading to have their cases for asylum processed in Australia. The stand-off between the asylum seekers and the Australian government has now been going for more than three months and is at crisis point with many of the people on the boat suffering from malnutrition, diarrhea, and other illnesses. One of the asylum seekers, George Jacob Samuel Christin, died on Christmas Eve following untreated illness on the boat.
Australian refugee advocate Saradha Nathan says, “The UNHCR should protect the refugees from such interrogation. Indonesia should not allow Sri Lanka to have access to the asylum seekers when they are trying to flee from persecution in Sri Lanka.”
The Sri Lankan navy officers are attempting to negotiate for the eight detainees to return to Sri Lanka, and have threatened to deport all those on the boat at Merak to the Boosa jail in Sri Lanka. This was the fate of one asylum seeker in Indonesia who returned to Sri Lanka to care for his sick mother early in December. He is currently jail in Sri Lanka.
The asylum seekers are fearful that their details will be given to the Sri Lankan government and this may endanger their families. Saradha Nathan is concerned about the safety of their information. She says, “Indonesia is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention in Relation to the Status of Refuges and these asylum seekers are not safe in Indonesian Detention. They need to be brought to Australia immediately to have their cases processed in a country that provides asylum to refugees. As the Australian Prime Minister took the initiative to push the boat into Indonesian authorities, Australia should now take responsibility and rectify this humanitarian crisis.”