Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

Rudd must grant asylum to the refugees in Merak

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The Rudd Government, who boast about their concern for human rights, have ignored the plight of over 250 Sri Lankan Tamil-speaking refugees held in a small boat near Merak, Indonesia.

The refugees are fleeing the horrible aftermath of the brutal war in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan government, rated as one of the worst in the world for respecting international human rights, now faces a UN war crimes investigation. But the Australian government, who remained silent during the war, now turn a blind eye to the horrific suffering of these refugees.

It is now over 100 days that these refugees, including children, have been held in the tiny boat with no facilities. Having gone through so much suffering due to war, all these refugees are in dire need of better care. It is beyond belief that the Australian government thinks it is acceptable to ignore such cruelty right on its border. It is in fact the Australian government who is responsible for the situation as the refugees’ boat was stopped by the Indonesian navy at the direct request of Kevin Rudd.

The negligence of the Australian Government has already cost the life of a 29 year-old man, Jacob Christian. The conditions on the boat put his health at serious risk but he died when the authorities delayed taking him to hospital. Now the health of all the refugees is deteriorating on a daily basis. They are forced to eat disgusting and inadequate food. There are no proper facilities for cleaning and washing. Access to drinking water is restricted and there is only one toilet. They are suffering from all sorts of stomach-related diseases.

Incredibly the Australian and Indonesian governments want to give the impression that these refugees do not want to leave the boat where they suffer so badly. On the contrary, the refugees can’t wait to get off the boat but they are given no other acceptable choice.

The only option on offer is to suffer similar, sometimes even worse, conditions in Indonesian detention centres for many years. The Indonesian government in not bound by the international refugee convention. Recently the Sri Lankan authorities, the very people most feared by the refugees, were allowed to interrogate detainees. This is a fate that these refugees refuse to accept.

The refugees have continually repeated that all they want to do is to get off the boat, as long as the Australian government, or any other country that is signed up to the UN refugee convention, commits to processing their claims fairly. They would leave the boat today if the Australian government said that it would allow the UNHCR access to process their claims.

Activists around the world are campaigning for the rights of the Merak refugees. As part of an international day of action, the Tamil community and a range of progressive groups will be holding a protest at 5.30pm Monday January 18th outside the State Library in Melbourne. (Corner of Swanston and Latrobe Streets in the City) Similar protests will be held in other cities around the world.

The Socialist Party campaigns for an end to Rudd’s ‘Indonesian solution’. We stand by the 254 Tamil refugees and call on our supporters to attend the protest and get involved in the campaign.

By SP reporters


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