A boat carrying around 50 Tamil refugees has become stranded offshore from Aceh in Indonesia since June 11th 2016 yet is being prevented from shoring for refugees to seek medical assistance. The boat is thought to have left Sri Lanka around the 2nd of May 2016 with refugees hoping to make the treacherous journey to Australia to seek protection from persecution they had been facing in Sri Lanka. Of those on board, there are at least 17 women, 1 of whom is heavily pregnant and 5 children.
The boat ran into Indonesian waters as bad weather had affected their route and local Indonesian fishermen helped them towards land. There they were intercepted by Indonesian Government authorities and were given food rations. The refugees had initially sought around 7,000 litres of diesel to allow their boat to reach Australia but were only given 1,000 litres. This rendered them helpless as they would not have enough fuel to reach land. The boat has now been in Indonesian waters for approximately 1 week but has been en route since May 2 2016. Those on board have not been given any medical assistance.
Almost exactly a year ago the world awoke to terrible suffering and loss of life of Rohingya refugees who were seeking refuge in Indonesia and Malaysia but were being denied the right by those host countries. At that time despite huge international outcry, the Indonesian and Malaysian authorities were stagnant in their approach and only after heavy pressure did they allow for the Rohingya to shore. With the case of he Sri Lanka refugees there has not been international interest and coverage and as a result even authorities such as UNHCR and IOM have been denied access by Indonesia.
Restless Beings partners Geutanyoe Foundation have been lobbying Government of Indonesia and late on Wednesday evening in Aceh it is thought a decision has been made by the Vice President to allow the boat to shore.
Conditions on board are thought to be intolerable with a lack of food, medical supplies and almost 6 weeks on the sea have taken to toll on the refugees. Despite widespread international support for countries to take in asylum seekers, it is shocking that access has been delayed for so long. It is high time that countries begin to acknowledge that article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that it is an intrinsic right of us all to seek asylum when in times of danger and need.
We will continue to bring news and updates on this situation. Please continue to support our work with refugees in Indonesia.