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Posted on 26 October 2009 at 0:00 GMT

Press release: Tamil refugees protest

Tamil-speaking refugees on a boat off the Indonesian coast have contacted Tamil Solidarity. Their continued suffering and the denial of their rights demands an urgent response. See below for their statement and for more info.

Join the Tamil Solidarity protest

Monday 26 October 4pm
Australia House, Strand, London W2B 4LA

War and aftermath

Over the last year the brutal oppression of the Tamil-speaking people in Sri Lanka by the Sinhala nationalist government has reached new levels of horror. Under the Rajapakse regime these people have faced an unending nightmare. It is estimated that over 20,000 people were killed in the last week of the war alone.

Since the government declared the end of the war in May 2009 over 300,000 people have been forcefully detained in concentration-style camps and denied the right to return to their homes.

It is estimated that among those incarcerated, without proper access to shelter, food and medicine, are 31,000 children. While the government was prepared to pour an estimated $5 million per day into its vicious war effort, little is spent to protect those in the camp against the oncoming monsoon floods which threaten a humanitarian catastrophe.

While around the world the Tamil diaspora conducted a ferocious anti-war campaign, governments in the west and in Asia remained deaf to the suffering of the Tamil-speaking people in Sri Lanka, preferring to maintain trade links with and sell arms to the Sri Lankan government.

Suffering continues

Now, forced by these horrendous conditions, a small number of Tamil-speaking people have managed to escape. Around the world there will be shock and anger to hear that these people, who have seen their families massacred, have so far been denied the refuge they seek.

Over 250 Tamil-speaking people remain on a boat in Merak harbour, Indonesia. 207 Sri Lankan asylum-seekers are held at the Immigration Detention Centre at Kuala Lumpar International Airport, and there are 108 Sri Lankan refugees detained at Pekan Nanas Immigration Detention Centre in Malaysia. After Canadian authorities intercepted a ship the 76 men on board were taken to jail for questioning.

Not only have these governments not acted decisively to assist the traumatised Tamil-speaking people, but they have extended their detention. That it has been suggested they be returned to Sri Lanka, to the situation they have fled, is a further indictment of the international ruling elite who has no interest in acting in the interests of ordinary people.

Solidarity needed

Tamil Solidarity has been in contact with the people on the boat in Merak harbour and calls for immediate solidarity action to assist their appeal for refuge. We call for a protest outside the Australian embassy in London and other countries to expose the rotten role of this government. It is clear that it is actions like this, of ordinary people in the Tamil diaspora and all communities in the trade unions, universities, schools and colleges, that are required to build a movement against the camps, against the racist discrimination against refugees and against governments who stand in the interests of big business and the rich no matter the consequences for ordinary people.

Tamil Solidarity: For the rights of all workers and oppressed people in Sri Lanka.

Contact Senan on 07908050217 or on


"For over 60 years Tamil-speaking people in Sri Lanka have faced and continue to face the huge repression of their rights from the Sinhala Buddhist nationalist governments. Not one international government, either from the west or from Asia, intervened on behalf of the oppressed minority to counter the attacks. The lives of thousands of ordinary Tamil-speaking people have been lost as, under the present Rajapakse government, Sinhala chauvinism has peaked.

"Children have lost parents. People have lost entire families. A generation of young people has lost its future as education provision has been decimated. The suffering of Tamil-speaking people is unspeakable.

"The Sri Lankan government declared that the war is over. But people around the world know and are shocked that over 250,000 people are suffering in so-called refugee camps, which are in fact torture camps. In all parts of Sri Lanka Tamil-speaking people have been arrested and killed.

"We have lost our loved ones and our lives to the war. We fled Sri Lanka just to save our lives and to safeguard our future and hoped to seek refuge in Australia, a country we believed would recognise our plight.

"On 11 October 2009 our boat was intercepted in international waters and brought to Merak harbour by the Indonesian Navy. From a six month old baby to a 66 year old, including a pregnant woman, we are all still in the boat. For the last two weeks we have been hoping at least one country in the world would take us.

"We understand that among the people of Indonesia there are many different religions. There are over 400 languages including minority languages which are also recognised as national languages. From this we draw hope that our democratic rights would be respected.

"We are dismayed to discover that efforts are being made to detain us in camps or hotels, as we have committed no crime and only seek refuge. We have been made refugees in our own country and have lost everything we had except our lives. What we seek is a country that will not detain us and will provide education and other rights for our young ones.

"We feel we have no choice but to remain on the boat until the UN or any government takes a step to offer us what we so desperately need.

"We are sure that there must be a country that will recognise our desperation and can grant us the very basic rights we seek.

"But until then we are determined to stay in the boat.

We appeal to the Indonesian and Australian masses, trade unions, human rights organisations and women's rights organisations to understand our plight and to support our demands.

We are appealing to all who stand against repression and for human rights to do whatever they can to help us. We especially urge the United Nations to act on our behalf.

We appeal to our brothers and sisters in Tamil Nadu, in Malaysia and in the Tamil-speaking diaspora around the world who have also suffered the brutality of Sri Lankan governments, to give voice to our desperate cry.

"We feel like we are helpless. We will begin a protest on the boat on Monday 26 October 2009. We will be seeking solidarity and hoping to clearly raising the points made here. We are communicating this with the help of Tamil Solidarity and the Committee for a Workers' International."


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