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Posted on 1 January 2010 at 18:45 GMT

Press release from Tamil Solidarity

Tamil refugees: immediate action to avoid humanitarian crisis

Australian government must follow words up with action

Call Senan on 00 44 79 080 50 217: Email: senan@tamilsolidarity.org

Ravie Kumar, speaking on behalf of the Tamil-speaking refugees on a boat in Merak harbour, Indonesia, has denied the allegation that the refugees are not wiling to cooperate with the Indonesian authorities.

The refugees have insisted that they are willing to cooperate but not on the basis of being held in a detention camp. Nobody could accept the conditions in these camps, where families are separated and refugees have been detained for up to ten years, never knowing when they will be freed.

Since 11 October these refugees have been held on a tiny boat with unbearable conditions. The Australian and Indonesian governments have so far been extremely slow in responding the demands for asylum rights. Speaking to ABC News on Wednesday 30 December, Australian Home Affairs Minister Brendan O' Connor stated that: "Australia will help resettle some of those on board the boat, but only after their asylum claims are processed by the UN refugee agency" and claimed that Australia has a fair off-shore humanitarian programme.

The refugees welcome this statement but there has been no evidence of an off-shore humanitarian programme when dealing with their case. In fact the Indonesian government, working closely with the Australian government, has denied UNHCR access to the boat. Australia's so-called 'Indonesian solution' to control refugee intake has already called death and a humanitarian crisis.

Tamil Solidarity, an international organisation that has been campaigning for the rights of Tamil-speaking refugees in Merak, demanded that genuine action be taken to resolve the refugees' desperate situation without wasting a single day. Tamil Solidarity said: "UNHCR must immediately begin the claims process. If the Australian government is serious about a humanitarian solution then it must act immediately to resolve the crisis. It is absolutely disgraceful to knowingly keep these refugees under such harsh conditions. These refugees, who fled enormous repression under the brutal Sri Lankan regime, feel abandoned by the governments. Two months is already too long to wait. Not another day should be wasted".

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