Saturday, March 10, 2012




Tamil refugees from the boat stranded in Merak, Indonesia in 2009
after being stopped at the request of then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd,
have been told that 24 of their number have been accepted to be
resettled in Australia.

The announcement came only a couple of hours following a demonstration
(photos attached) of round 80 of the 134 recognised refugees at the
Medan UNHCR offices in protest at the long delays in their

The Merak Tamils were promised that Australia would play a role in
their resettlement when they got off the asylum boat in 2010. But late
last year they were told that Australia had rejected 40 of the
referred refugees.

UNHCR Indonesia then told them that they their names had been referred
to New Zealand, and they would have an answer by the end of January.

When no answer was forthcoming, they staged yesterday’s demonstration.
Despite being told by UNHCR officials at Medan hat they had no answers
for them, within two hours of the demonstration, the Merak Tamils has
been told 24 had been accepted by Australia.

“After two years of waiting, this is very welcome news,” said Ian
Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition, “but there are
still 110 people that have been waiting too long. They have been
forced to wait too long already. The Labor government needs to make
good on its promise to the Merak Tamils.”

“The treatment of the Merak Tamils makes a mockery of the government’s
claims to be concerned about asylum seekers making dangerous boat
journeys, said Rintoul, “It is the Australian government treatment of
asylum seekers and refugees that are pushing people onto boats.

“These refugees spent a year in detention in Tanjung Pinang, before
they were all found to refugees. Yet the government has until now
refused to resettle them. Some who took second boats to Australia got
visas months ago.

“The recent death of the Afghan asylum seeker in Kalimantan is just
the latest indication of the danger that asylum seekers face in
Indonesia. We hope the government now acts quickly to resettle all the
Merak Tamils. They have been pushed from pillar to post between the
UNHCR and the Australian government. But it is clear that the
responsibility lies with the Australian government.

“Unless the government acts, there are another 110 refugees who will
have to get a boat if they are going to get to safety.”

[Photos of the Merak Tamils protesting at the Medan UNHCR office on
the morning of Wednesday 7 March are attached - others available]

For more information contact Ian Rintoul mob 0417 275 713