**UPDATE: Indonesian police have reneged on undertaking that the two Tamil
asylum seekers arrested on Thursday night would be released (main story
below). The two arrested asylum seekers have been taken to immigration
detention in Jakarta. It is expected that they will be jailed in the two
cramped cells that are already holding 14 other Tamils including UNHCR
registered refugees from Merak.
“It is now imperative that the Indonesian government intervene to order the
release of the two arrested in Thursday and release all those from the
Merak boat. The conditions in the Jakarta cells are inhumane,” said Ian
Refugee advocates in Indonesia and Australia have called for the immediate
release of two Tamil asylum seekers arrested last night at the
International Organization of Migration hostel near the boat at Merak.
The two men, the brother of Manjun, the woman due to give birth, and her
uncle, had permission from navy officers to take some supplies from the
boat to the hostel, located a short distance away.
When they arrived at the hostel, they were questioned and then arrested by
Indonesian police. Despite protests from the people on the boat, the two
men have been held in custody. There was no attempt to establish that they
had permission from the navy to go to the hostel.
The Refugee Action Coalition and the Working Peoples Association (PRP),
part of the Jakarta refugee alliance, are calling for the two men to be
“It is against the law for people to be arrested without charge in
Indonesia,” said Mahendra, a spokesperson for the PRP, “The men must be
immediately released. Their arrest is a direct violation of their human
rights. Indonesia must respect the rights of refugees.”
“This incident is just one more reason to find an urgent solution to the
situation at Merak. These people have suffered continual harassment at the
hands of some local Indonesian authorities. People who voluntarily left the
boat in December are still being held in shocking condition in immigration
cells in central Jakarta,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee
“Special nutrition and other supplements for Manju, who is due to give
birth in early April, were confiscated from refugee activists visiting
Indonesia in January. There have been reports of assaults of refugees by
local police. The police officer Bahino seems to be a particular problem.
The arrest of Manju’s relatives has caused her considerable distress. Now
she is worried about their future as well as the fact that they may not be
around to support her after the birth,” said Rintoul.
Late today Friday (12 March), people on the boat were told that the two
arrestees would be released on Monday. “We do not believe them,” one asylum
seekers told the Refugee Action Coalition.
“The Tamil asylum seekers have been kept in limbo for over five months now
– victims of Kevin Rudd’s Indonesia Solution,” said Ian Rintoul. “Refugee
activists in Indonesia and Australia have put forward a proposal for the
Indonesian government to begin immigration verification and UNHCR
“The Indonesian government must act to end the harassment and uncertainty
at Merak. The Australian government must indicate exactly how the people
are going to be re-settled.”