Over 250 Tamil-speaking refugees are held on a boat in Merak harbour, Indonesia. So far they have faced rejection and the threat of internment in their quest for refuge from the horror of war and concentration-style camps in Sri Lanka. The vast majority of the international media has placed a veil of silence over this terrible situation.
On Monday 26 October Tamil Solidarity (TS) organised a protest outside Australia House in London to raise awareness of the refugees’ plight and to put pressure on the Australian government to grant asylum rights. Martin Powell-Davis, from Lewisham NUT, spoke about how solidarity is being built in the trade unions.
The refugees have spoken with TS about their desperation. “We fled Sri Lanka just to save our lives and to safeguard our future and hoped to seek refuge in Australia, a country we believed would recognise our plight.
“On 11 October 2009 our boat was intercepted in international waters and brought to Merak harbour by the Indonesian Navy. From a six month old baby to a 66 year old, including a pregnant woman…we feel we have no choice but to remain on the boat until the UN or any government takes a step to offer us what we so desperately need.
“We appeal to the Indonesian and Australian masses, trade unions, human rights organisations and women’s rights organisations to understand our plight and to support our demands.
“We are appealing to all who stand against repression and for human rights to do whatever they can to help us. We especially urge the United Nations to act on our behalf.
“We appeal to our brothers and sisters in Tamil Nadu, in Malaysia and in the Tamil-speaking diaspora around the world who have also suffered the brutality of Sri Lankan governments, to give voice to our desperate cry.
TS handed in letter of protest to high commission & that other letters of complaint should be sent, with copies to TS
High Commissioner Mr John Dauth
TS will continue to campaign in solidarity with those on the boat as well as building the campaign to shut down the camps in Sri Lanka where around 300,000 Tamil-speaking people are forcefully detained.