Indonesia Faces Sri Lankan Refugees, Amnesty International Expects Wise Decision

Saturday, 18 June 2016 , 20:00:00 WIB - International

Volunteers distributed logistics for Sri Lankan immigrants who got stranded at Pulau Kapuk Coast, Aceh Besar, Aceh, Friday (17/6). (ANTARA)

JAKARTA, GRES.NEWS - Amnesty International feels unfortunate with the Aceh Government for not allowing more than 40 Tamil tribe refugees from Sri Lanka to land in Indonesia after they found them stranded in Aceh waters. The refugees are still in their ship that got wrecked and stranded at Lhoknga Coast, Aceh Besar.

The refugees were sailing to Australia. Therefore, the Aceh Government will return them to the seas after providing some assistance by repairing their ship and give them food supplies.

Campaign Director of Amnesty International for Southeast Asia and Asia Pacific, Josef Benedict, said that the Aceh Government has violated the international law by returning them to the seas. "Indonesian officials should allow them to land safely in Indonesia, so the UN's Refugee Agency (UNHCR) could interview them," Josef said in a written statement received by, Saturday (18/6).

According to the information received by the Amnesty Internation, on Friday (17/6), Josef said that the Banda Aceh immigration agency spokesperson stated that the refugees who escaped from Sri Lanka were not allowed to land in Indonesia three weeks ago as their first destination is Christmas Island in Australia.

Aceh Regional Police Chief, Insp. Gen. Husein Hamidi, also stated that they have provided food supplies and repaired the ship of the Tamil tribe refugees from Sri Lanka. The police and the Indonesian Navy (TNI-AL) are ready to return them to the international waters. Their decision is considered endangering the safety of the refugees.

Josef considered that the immigration agency, the police, the Indonesian Navy (TNI-AL) in Aceh have ignored the direction from Vice President Jusuf Kalla to let the refugees land. "Instead of allowing them, they blocked the access for the refugees," he said.

He said that UNHCR staffs are preparing themselves in Aceh to interview the Tamil tribe refugees from Sri Lanka to verify their identities and their status.

The Tamil tribe refugees from Sri Lanka were found by Aceh fishermen near Aceh waters last June 11. They reported the stranded ship to the Indonesian Navy (TNI-AL). Unfortunately, the Navy didn't allow them to land and apply for asylum as the refugees didn't give proper arguments and documents.

The refugees started their escape on a dangerous voyage from India after they got reported escaping from Sri Lanka, where Tamil minorities suffered from persecutions in the past.

The Tamil tribe refugees departed from India, which is more than 1,700 km from Aceh, with an India-flagged ship. They've been sailing for 20 days to Australia. When they got near to Aceh coast, they're facing a bad weather, and their ship got stranded near Lhoknga.

Lately, the UN Human Rights Council noted that some people of Tamil tribe were arrested in Sri Lanka on April under the Prevention of Terrorism Act/PTA. The arrest under PTA - in numerous cases - has failed to meet the minimum standards of justice under the order of the Sri Lankan National Commission for Human Rights. (dtc)