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

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254 Tamil asylum seekers are being held in deplorable conditions in the Javan port city of Merak. Tamils for Obama urges the president in this letter to ask the Indonesian government to let them go on to their intended destination of Australia.

254 Tamil asylum seekers are being held in deplorable conditions in the Javan port city of Merak. Tamils for Obama urged the president in a letter sent Friday (March 19) to tell the Indonesian government to let these refugees go on to their intended destination of Australia.

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

President Obama, who lived for several years of his childhood in Indonesia, is expected to visit the Asian country shortly.

"The refugees are being held in the port city of Merak on the west coast of Java," explained a spokesman for Tamils for Obama. "They have been stranded there for the last four months as Australia has leaned on Indonesia not to let the refugees go on. Australia is their intended destination."

"What we think are believable reports," the letter says, "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," the letter goes on, "has reportedly used its control over food, medicine, and other necessities to manipulate the refugees and compel them to accept Indonesian imprisonment. Most of 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."

The Tamil spokesman said that Indonesian authorities permitted Sri Lankan military officers to interrogate asylum seekers who were transferred to the detention camp. "Of course, both we and the asylum seekers want to avoid this," he said.

Witnesses report that the refugees' boat is a small one, not any kind of cruise ship, the Tamils for Obama spokesman explained. "It is far too small to accommodate the 254 people."

"It was hard enough traveling in that small boat," said one of the Tamil 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 president urge Indonesia and Australia to settle these refugees in humane conditions until they can live safely in their homeland," the letter to the president concludes.

To read the entire letter go to :http://www.TamilsforObama.com/letters/Letter_to_prez_Merak_Tamil_Refugees.html

Tamils are an ethnic group living mainly in the northeast of Sri Lanka and southern India. During the final weeks of the recent civil war, the Sri Lankan government killed about 1,000 Tamil civilians per day, according to the United Nations, and about 30,000 in 2009. Tamils are a minority population in Sri Lanka, and have borne the brunt of a civil war they regard as genocide. One-third of the Tamil population has fled the island and formed a substantial diaspora overseas. Tamils for Obama is comprised of Tamils who have settled in the U.S. or who were born in the U.S.

To contact the group, call at (617) 765- 4394 and speak to, or leave a message for, the Communication Director, Tamils for Obama.


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