Some facts about the people on the boats

Given all the speculation and commentary about the two boats with Tamil asylum seekers aboard currently in Indonesia, I thought it would be helpful to publish some basic facts about the people.  This information comes from Pamela Curr from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in Melbourne, a person I’ve found to very reliable on these sorts of things – certainly far more so than anonymous, speculative or presumptive comments in the media.
———————–
*Two boats*
“Merak” is anchored off the Indonesian port of Merak and has 255 people
on board including “Alex”.  These people came recently from Sri Lanka- we are trying to get exact numbers but we believe that over 90% have come out of the camps
including Menik Farm.They are deeply traumatised and fear being returned
to camps if they hand them selves over to the Indonesian government. 3
people from this boat have been hospitalised and 5 people with little
children have left the boat because of the children. Last week water was
restricted and no medical care given for conjunctivitis which was
sweeping through the boat. Over 30 cases reported on Friday. The good
news is that on Saturday Doctors arrived and provided treatment and the
water restrictions were lifted. IOM and indonesian officers are
pressuring the people to disembark. However after living in camps in SL
these people are not ready to commit to camps in Indonesia. this boat
has dropped out of the media gaze- please watch carefully as they need
us to ensure that their rights are respected.
* the people on the boat are calling it the “Merak”
“Ocean Viking” has 78 people on board. 37 of these people hold UNHCR
refugee cards and most have been in Indonesia for years waiting for
aplace to call home. They are recognised as refugees but this is no
guarantee of resettlement. Refugees have been warehoused in Indonesia
since 2001 by first the Howard and then the Rudd Government. Eventually
people realise that they must help themselves as no one else will help
them. This is why the boats will continue to come from Indonesia where
there are currently 2,107 people registered with UNHCR who are going
nowhere. There are 50 people in Christmas island detention centres who
hold UNHCR refugee cards.
RESETTLEMENT FACTS
Australian resttlement from Indonesia
2008-2009 35 people
2007-2008 89 people
2006-2007 32 people
Total resettlement 2001 – 2009 was 460 people an average of 50 per year. You do not need to be a mathematical genius to work out the odds of resettlement.
Life is Indonesia for these people means no work, no school even for primary school
children and no future. People are fed and waterd and sheltered by IOM
at Australia’s expense. However people are not cattle and need more in
life than this which is why they take matters into their own hands – wouldn’t we?

Given all the speculation and commentary about the two boats with Tamil asylum seekers aboard currently in Indonesia, I thought it would be helpful to publish some basic facts about the people.  This information comes from Pamela Curr from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in Melbourne, a person I’ve found to very reliable on these sorts of things – certainly far more so than anonymous, speculative or presumptive comments in the media.

———————–

*Two boats*

“Merak” is anchored off the Indonesian port of Merak and has 255 people on board including “Alex”.  These people came recently from Sri Lanka- we are trying to get exact numbers but we believe that over 90% have come out of the camps including Menik Farm.

They are deeply traumatised and fear being returned to camps if they hand them selves over to the Indonesian government. Three people from this boat have been hospitalised and 5 people with little children have left the boat because of the children. Last week water was restricted and no medical care given for conjunctivitis which was sweeping through the boat. Over 30 cases reported on Friday.

The good news is that on Saturday Doctors arrived and provided treatment and the water restrictions were lifted. IOM and Indonesian officers are pressuring the people to disembark. However after living in camps in SL these people are not ready to commit to camps in Indonesia.

This boat has dropped out of the media gaze- please watch carefully as they need us to ensure that their rights are respected. –

* the people on the boat are calling it the “Merak”

“Ocean Viking” has 78 people on board. 37 of these people hold UNHCR refugee cards and most have been in Indonesia for years waiting for a place to call home.

They are recognised as refugees but this is no guarantee of resettlement. Refugees have been warehoused in Indonesia since 2001 by first the Howard and then the Rudd Government. Eventually people realise that they must help themselves as no one else will help them. This is why the boats will continue to come from Indonesia where there are currently 2,107 people registered with UNHCR who are going nowhere. There are 50 people in Christmas island detention centres who hold UNHCR refugee cards.

RESETTLEMENT FACTS

Australian resettlement from Indonesia

2008-2009 35 people

2007-2008 89 people

2006-2007 32 people

Total resettlement 2001 – 2009 was 460 people an average of 50 per year. You do not need to be a mathematical genius to work out the odds of resettlement.

Life is Indonesia for these people means no work, no school even for primary school children and no future. People are fed and watered and sheltered by IOM at Australia’s expense. However people are not cattle and need more in life than this which is why they take matters into their own hands – wouldn’t we?

ADDENDUM:  Some very useful information contained in this article by Matt Wade in the Sydney Morning Herald.  It gives some good background to a question frequently being asked in Australia at the moment, which is why don’t Tamils fleeing Sri Lanka just go to the Tamil Nadu region in India.

Some in Australia have asked why Tamils fleeing Sri Lanka don’t just go the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu, home to 60 million Tamil speakers. The answer is that more than 100,000 have done just that. About 73,000 of them live in special refugee camps funded and run by the Indian Government. Another 31,000 live in the community, mostly in cities such as Chennai.

India – where 800 million people live on less than $2 a day – does not encourage the flow of refugees from its small island neighbour. Even so they have been arriving in waves since the Tamil Tigers took up arms to fight for a separate homeland in north and east of Sri Lanka in the early 1980s. The war ended in May but refugees continue to arrive……

The public reaction [in India] is in stark contrast to the recent frenzy over boat people in Australia. The media have taken little notice of the boat arrivals and national politicians have been allowed to concentrate on other challenges……

There is sympathy for the refugees. In September the ruling party in Tamil Nadu passed a resolution calling on the national government to grant citizenship to all Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in India. So far, New Delhi has shown no interest in the idea.

Not only Tamils seek sanctuary in India. The World Refugee Survey 2009, published by the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, found 456,000 refugees and asylum seekers in India. That includes about 110,000 Tibetans including the spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. India also tolerates a huge number of Bangladeshis within its borders – many millions, by some estimates – although they are officially deemed illegal immigrants.

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65 Comments

  1. we are stupid enough to measure poverty on what we think is enought
    but are we not slaves to our own so called wealth .
    do we not work our entire lives to maintain a so called comffy life according to what we are supposed to have .
    would we be not better off with less.
    we have come to a point where we worship money we make heros from sport stars and people others who have made the worlds richest list ( prob from cheating and lieing ) we have lost the plot we do not recognise true wealth anymore .
    we should be sending the people who come here back but we should be educating them first.what better gift could we as ppl give them.
    we cant just say the need family planing with out the tools to make it work in there own country.
    something to think about !
    finnally after many wars and other things there are only a few ppl left
    one groupe has aquired all the material wealth the world has left and the other has only the abillity to feed and clothe and build shelter for thenselves
    the question would be what would then be classed as wealth.

  2. Red crab – education is a good thing .. but many refugees ARE educated well. What they are driven from their ancestral homes for is something that singles them out in their own country for discrimination, persecution or threat of death … sometimes it is gender, sometimes, the wrong family (a relative has unpopular opinions), sometimes it is their own political opinons, or their religion, or their ethnic group.

    If they have well-founded fears of coming to harm where they used to live then that is the yardstick for deciding whether they are a refugee or not. If they qualify, then our own Immigration law says they have a perfect right to seek asylum in our country .. because we have signed up to the International Law on this.

    India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and a myriad of other countries in our region have not signed this law. That is why there is no ‘queue’ in those countries and that is why threatening to send them back won’t work. What we need to do is work in our neighbourhood to help pressure e.g. Sri Lanka and Burma to treat their own people decently, and to pressure e.g. Indonesia to treat properly the people who go there hoping to use it is a springboard to safety. They are not safe in Indonesia, Malaysia etc, and they cannot go home.

    Why this is so hard for the general public ot understand I find baffling – surely the same people at work who tell me you can’t belive a word you read in the papaers can’t be swallowing whole the screaming headlines about “illegals” which are lies?

  3. Besides, the countries Togret mentions as intermediate with the movement of refuges from war zones elsewhere, are generally themselves much poorer than we are.
    And we do little on the humanitarian side, “aid” is often more about training up the military in these places, to put down unrest within from the ordinary people there, more than concerns relating to “defence”.

  4. togret
    and paul walter
    i have to agree with you what you have sead is tru
    and i do feel for these poor people
    but my worry is not now its is in the near future i do know that most people who are given a chance in a new country will be an asset to the community
    but there is not a country n the world that has taken in refugees that has and is not haveing magor problems with a minority they cant control

    its starting to happen here now .
    Why this is so hard for the general public ot understand I find baffling
    probebly because they see what is going on around them more than some paper pusher in canberra mabe because they have seen the gangs that are forming mabe because they see there communitys fragmenting mabe because they dont want to go down the same road as other countrys have and are now regreting there generosity and are splitting into ethnic no go zones . but mabe there totaly wrong.

  5. Yes, rc, we all fear betrayal, a challenge is to take on the humanitarian aspect, helping out people often so like our mates or family, at the same time somehow keeping an eye on the politicians so they dont take advantage of us and refugees, alike..
    Don’t forget their (refugees) betrayal has been worse than ours, tho. No one gave a bugger or lent a hand when their families were being shot up, no one stopped it…

  6. red crab – what you are (presumably) talking about is a combination of 1. lack of resources being put into resettlement .. which I’d agree needs more effort .. much more effort …

    2. media hype (we see the flavour of the month being aboriginal dysfunction, no-particular-ethnicity-dysfunction, whatever-ethnic group dysfunction [remember the Vietnamese who at one stage were running secret societies and at another stage ousting our kids from universities?] and let’s not forget the AIDS sufferers who were polluting public toilet seats) which could be nipped in the bud if we simply stopped buying their crap

    3. crime problems which might well be real and which need to be handled by police trained in community interaction and if necessary the courts

    4. fear of ‘the other’ .. again this has happened before and it often takes time and positive community building activities together with action by you and me plus leadership by our so-called leaders.

    People who feel threatened or excluded from our community, could well stop trying to integrate, had you thought of that? Why are we not all, to save the social harmony we valaue, not reaching out our hands to emphasise what we have in comon instead of emphasising differences? To underline differences is to increase the risk of people isolating themselves in their own communities and leaving them open to maniplation by troublemakers from within and without.

    My niece plays women’s soccer at quite a high level. The women’s soccer authorities allowed players to play wearing a headscarf if they wish to, and my niece knows a couple of young women in Sydney who do that. They make a few variations on the uniform (trakkies instead of bare legs) and play competitively with girls from every other community background. Big impact from a small decision.

    We can all make a difference in that way.

    What you feed grows. IF division and fear are fed inour commmunity by the media, our leaders

  7. i know what you mean
    but sometimes one has to be hard to actually help
    sometimes it is more productive to say no.
    it gos back to the old saying
    feed a man a fish and you have to feed him for the rest of your life
    or give him to abillity to catch his own and feed himself .
    therefore freeing you up to help someone elce.
    Don’t forget their (refugees) betrayal has been worse than ours, tho. No one gave a bugger or lent a hand when their families were being shot up, no one stopped it
    how can a small country like australia be responsible for everything in every country around us how can we as a ppl foresee problems in someone elces country when we cant see our own.

  8. So, RC is sceptical. No one would nuke him (presumption) for that?
    RC, we’re not being asked to “shoulder the burden” too much.
    I suspect the cost to an already poor country, Indonesia, is far higher than ours, even though we have much more dough.
    Am not suggesting we spend billions, although we are already doing that with all these detention centres. The same money spent keeping a few hundred of them out could resettle some really hard up people, without a single added cost to us.
    Onya Togret, you sound like a bright lady.

  9. what you are (presumably) talking about is a combination of 1. lack of resources being put into resettlement .. which I’d agree needs more effort .. much more effort …
    therein lies one of the perseived problems in the community .for someone who no dout needs assistance to settle into a new community is seen as getting more than the people who have worked most or all the lives in the community .( this is a fact and this is where most resentment starts )this has happend all over the world its human nature and will never change

    i dont have a problem with anybody whatever they look like or where they come from or even how they got here i have a friday night card game with nine other ppl we share food from all over and the thing is im th only anglow australian born there im the minority so that tells you something
    .but on the othe hand one only has to open ones eyes to see some very big problems looming for the community in the near future from some ethnic groups who have been let in and not told fimly enough what is exepted behavour buy the community .
    togret and paul you comments are exelent and very tru should be more ppl like you here .

  10. Red crab .. well, thank you for that. The support I meant was cultural literacy and English training, (where necessary), support in getting qualifications recognised, linking up with longer-established families and other thigns that don’t necessarily involve money.

    Secondly, why do you say that refugees receive more government support than long-time residents? That isn’t true.

    Apparently hoax emails are being sent around saying something else. Here is what the Immigration Department says”
    http://www.immi.gov.au/media/letters/letters09/le090507.htm

  11. Togret:

    What Red Crab is saying about asylum seekers receiving large sums of government money to re-establish themselves here in Australia is true.

    Our own poverty stricken residents certainly don’t get the same treatment.

    I think a big issue lies with corporations selling weapons to third world countries, leaving them with no money to buy food. Then when there is a huge competition for food, people use the weapons to blow one another away.

    The resultant civil war drives the people with at least some money onto the boats.

    So I think the best solution is to work backwards from the endgame and make the big corporations pay large sums of money to those they have left without homes or food.

    I walked into the living room as a reporter was discussing a place in Africa where 100% of the children are starving. Some of the children were so close to death that they couldn’t keep anything down. The mothers were tall. They looked like Zulus.

    Then a person from an aid agency unlocked the door of a shed and showed us all of the guns he had collected. He had a really large cache.

  12. Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme payments to eligible asylum seekers and allowances paid to people in community detention on Christmas Island are paid 89 per cent of the Centrelink Newstart allowance – less than the aged pension.
    ok so tell me why are these non residents of australia without refugee recognition are entiteled to anything while they are being fed and housed buy australia in detention.they have accses to internet phone and some form of legal assistance on christmas island so why do they get payed for me thats a prity good incentive buy its self

    second assesment is that if the immigration dept wants to squash any falce statments why not publish the basic plus the extra entitlements which they have not done the question is why? its supposibly public infomation.

    but you and i are not really affected in any way and it dose not mater how much assistance someone gets good luck to them . most will do well and enhance our community but there will be some who come that will cause problems the question is how do we as a community deal with them.

  13. Red crab – the information is there on the department’s website, together with the press releases they have sent out. Now ask yourself why the media don’t put together a story on the information you have read. I don’t know.

    According to the department they don’t all get that payment, they must be eligible. : ‘To be eligible for ASA, asylum seekers must be in financial hardship and:

    *have lodged a valid PV application more than six months ago, unless exempt from the six month waiting period
    *not be in detention
    *hold a bridging or other visa
    *not be eligible for either Commonwealth or overseas government income support
    *not be a partner or sponsored fiancé of a permanent resident. ‘
    http://www.immi.gov.au/media/fact-sheets/62assistance.htm

    Why do they get that payment? To avoid them starving to death I suppose. Aren’t you the one who used to tell us that people on Christmas Island were not detained and were free to wander about and chat to you at the wharf? One of the conditions is that they are not detained, so the ones you saw there might be elibible. I’m not the department, I can’t answer for what they do, but I certainly hope we don’t allow people not indetention to try to survive here on no income. Can you see that it might lead to at least hunger and depsir, at worst crime of one sort or another.

    Lorikeet – this is going to be boring for you, but in the teeth of the evidence from the immigration department’s claim that they are not paid large sums, could you please provide some evidence that causes you to say they are? Preferably not some esteemed nameless person you know, or your cousin’s next-door-neighbour, or you heard it on the radio last year sometime.

  14. i stand corrected .
    in my haist mabe i overlooked the fact that its the ppl in community detention who get some money.fare enough its also good for the econemy on christmas island .
    interesting thought there is an oppitunity here for those of us who study what a large sudden increase in population on a community dose from the reports i have herd its not good
    mabe the govt dose not want the ppl to know that because of the refugees and the support group that are there the islands infrastructure is starting to fall appart now they want house more ppl there.

  15. Togret:

    I’m afraid I cannot prevent the Immigration Department from lying to the public about what goes on. I’m also sure they’re not experts on what goes on in other departments such as Centrelink.

    Drat! I saw the woman I know who works for Centrelink only 2 hours ago at my place. I guess I should have asked her what she knew about it, but we were busy discussing how she might appeal against a discrimatory decision made there against her.

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