Monday, 16 November 2009

MEDIA RELEASE: Shooting leaves "Indonesian solution" in tatters, but pressure mounts on asylum seekers in Merak

“The Australian government did not pull the trigger, but it provided the bullets and loaded the guns that were turned on Afghan asylum seekers on the weekend,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“How ironic that in the same month there were celebrations of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Indonesian border guards have shot asylum seekers trying to get to Australia. But the stark reality is that the opportunity, the bullets, the guns, the patrol, boat and the training are provided by Australia. Asylum seekers are now fleeing persecution in Indonesia, sponsored by the Australian government.

“Kevin Rudd’s policy has made vulnerable people even more vulnerable. The demand for bribes is a common experience of asylum seekers in Indonesia.

“But the shooting of two Afghan asylum seekers has blown a gaping hole in Kevin Rudd’s Indonesia Solution and his claim for a humane asylum policy. No-one is going to accept that people fleeing the bullets of the Taliban should be shot in Indonesia by Australian-funded guards.

“Until there is adequate accommodation, reliable processing and a guarantee of re-settlement in Australia, there is no possibility of an Indonesian solution,” said Ian Rintoul.

Meanwhile, Indonesia authorities are steeping up pressure on the 250 asylum seekers in Merak. In what may the first steps to forcibly removing the asylum seekers, Indonesian authorities have restricted access to the port.

On the weekend, the Indonesia navy evacuated a woman who had fainted after the International Organsation for Migration (IOM) refused to call an ambulance and a doctor refused to board the boat to attend to the woman.

The IOM which has been providing assistance to the asylum seekers has now abandoned the group at Merak. There is now no direct medical support for the group.

“The IOM has been pressuring us to leave the boat since it arrived deserted us, and now they have left completely. We are urgently calling for the Red Cross to take responsibility for us,” said “Alex” the representative of the Merak asylum seekers.

On Saturday, a man claiming to be an Indonesian policeman called for “Alex”, to leave the boat, then threatened to shoot him.

“Australia should bring the asylum seekers at Merak and the Oceanic Viking to Australia. Rudd is prolonging the agony to save face, but he has already guaranteed that those with UNHCR refugee cards will come to Australia. One hundred and nine people on the boat at Merak also have UNHCR refugee cards.

“Reports that Indonesia may be considering deporting some of the Merak asylum seekers makes it more urgent that Kevin Rudd intervenes to ensure the safety of these people,” Ian Rintoul.

For more information contact Refugee Action Coalition, Ian Rintoul 047 275 713

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