Ilankai Tamil Sangam

28th Year on the Web

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Tamils to President: Urge Indonesia to Let the Tamil Refugees Proceed


Re:  The Tamil Refugees in Merak, Indonesia.

March 19, 2010

Mr. President:

We have a suggestion for one matter you might raise with the Indonesian government during your planned visit in the next few weeks. The matter is the status of 254 asylum seekers from Sri Lanka who are being held by the Indonesian government.

The refugees are being held in the port city of Merak on the west coast of Java. They have been stranded there for the last four months as Australia, their planned destination, has asked Indonesia not to let the refugees go on. 

What we think are believable reports tell us that the refugees are being subjected to conditions that are well short of what the United States and the United Nations consider proper for detained asylum seekers. The International Organization of Migration, which is funded by Australia to provide welfare assistance for asylum seekers, has reportedly used its control over food, medicine, and other necessities to manipulate the refugees and compel them to accept Indonesian imprisonment. The Tamil refugees have chosen to stay on their boat rather than be transferred to an Indonesian detention camp where they would be kept in cells along with refugees from other countries.

Indonesian authorities have allowed Sri Lankan military officers to interrogate those asylum seekers who were transferred to the detention camp.

Witnesses report that the refugees’ boat is far too small to accommodate the 254 people. “It was hard enough traveling in that small boat,” said one of the refugees, “but now we have been forced to live on it for more than four months. There is only one toilet.”

At least one of the refugees, a 29-year-old man, has died on the boat.

We ask that the U.S. urge Indonesia and Australia to settle these refugees in humane conditions until they can live safely in their homeland of Sri Lanka.

Thank you.


Tamils for Obama



Printer-friendly version