Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

Appeal from the Tamil refugees at Merak

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Refugees call on Rudd to act
Kumar is one of the 255 Tamil refugees currently on the boat docked at Merak, Indonesia. Socialist Party officials spoke with him this morning and he communicated to us the following appeal.

“We took to the sea to escape Malaysia, where we were not given asylum after fleeing Sri Lanka. After hellish days at sea, full of fear and uncertainty on our small boat, we are all suffering from fatigue and are very depressed that still our lives are hanging in the balance.

“There are no real facilities in the boat. We all are sharing just one toilet for example. 17 children among us are suffering from malnutrition. The majority of us are very frustrated and pushed to the edge of life. A number of refugees have already threatened to jump off the board into the sea.

“We have suffered enough at the hands of the Sri Lankan government. Our life so far has been wasted by the war. We were forced to escape as a result of the horrific attacks on Tamil-speaking people in Sri Lanka. The thirty year long war in Sri Lanka had devastated our lives. International governments, who refused to protect the lives, were also responsible for the death of thousands. The Sri Lankan government is still holding 250,000 Tamils in small camps in horrific conditions. There is no way we want to go back to that horrendous life. A return to Sri Lanka will mean being returned to hell and all our lives will be in danger.

“We have wasted half of our lives for war and in the camps. All we demand is a right to have a decent life with basic democratic rights including right to education for our kids. We are determined not to waste rest of our life in another detention camp which denies us our fundamental rights. There are other Sri Lankan refugees living in Indonesia who are not given their full democratic rights. We also believe that the Indonesian government is using us to meet their political aims with Australia and with some aid agencies. With no trust that the Indonesian government will respect our rights we refuse to come out of the boat. We appeal to the Indonesian masses to understand our plea and support us.

“We are also very disappointed to learn that Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made a phone call to Indonesia’s president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to stop our boat and keep us away from Australia. We are harmless peaceful people who are trying to save our lives and asking our fundamental rights to be respected. We pose no threat. We have stopped our hunger strike with the belief that our plea will be listened to. However we are determined to continue to stay in the boat until our demands for basic rights are respected. In that respect we are disappointed with the UN which should be standing on our site negotiating a better life for us. We appeal to the UN and its general secretary Ban Ki-Moon to take necessary steps immediately.

“All we demand is a better life that all human beings deserve in the world. We won’t get off the boat until any country that can provide our rights comes forward to take us.” Kumar said.

The Socialist Party calls on the Australian government to allow the Tamil refugees to settle in Australia. More information will be released as it comes to hand.


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