Indonesia refuses to allow stranded Lankans to disembark boat

1465800642385 (1)Indonesia is refusing to allow a group of illegal Sri Lankan asylum seekers to disembark from a boat which reached Indonesian waters over the weekend.

The boat with 44 Sri Lankans who claim to be headed for Christmas Island remains marooned in bad weather off the Indonesian province of Aceh, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Indonesian authorities have provided the Sri Lankans with food but will not let them disembark because they do not have passports or valid travel documents.

“There is one who showed something like a refugee document but it is not from the UNHCR,” the head of the Aceh immigration office, Achmad Samadan, told Fairfax Media.

“It read Sri Lankan refugee identity card and on top of it is writing that read Government of Tamil.”
The boat was spotted by local fishermen in off the coast of Lhoknga, in the district of Aceh Besar at 11am on June 11.

There were 44 men, women and children claiming to be from Sri Lanka on board, including one pregnant woman.

The Sri Lankans claimed they had been forced to stop en route to Australia because their engine had been overheating, although Lhoknga military commander Major Darul Amin said a team of technicians sent to examine the engines found nothing wrong.

The Sri Lankans, who told the Indonesian authorities they had come from India, were reportedly keen to continue their voyage to Australia and Indonesia wanted them out of its waters.

However Mr Achmad said the boat was still off the coast of Aceh because the weather was bad. He said the Sri Lankans had requested 7000 litres of diesel, but the Indonesians couldn’t give them such a “huge amount”.

“We told them we could only provide 1000 litres but they rejected that,” Mr Achmad said.
“I have talked with my colleagues from the Home Ministry but no decision has been reached. We agreed that we must bring this issue to the governor.”

The International Organisation for Migration has indicated it is ready to assist with services if asked to do so and the UN refugee agency is also in communication with the government.

Indonesia is not a signatory to the UN refugee convention and refugees cannot legally work there while waiting for resettlement in a third country.

There are 13 immigration detention centres in Indonesia, most of which are overcrowded.

As of January there were 13,679 refugees and asylum seekers registered with the UNHCR in Indonesia, many of whom have been stuck in transit for years. (Colombo Gazette)


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