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Amnesty urges Indonesia to allow Tamil asylum seekers to disembark

Amnesty International on Wednesday called on the Indonesian government to allow over 40 Tamils fleeing from Sri Lanka to disembark and meet with UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) officials.

“These people have endured a long and difficult journey already. Now that they have reached land in Aceh, they should be allowed to disembark and meet UNHCR officials,” Amnesty International’s director of campaigns for South East Asia and the Pacific, Josef Benedict said in a statement.

Noting the ongoing discrimination against Tamils, Amnesty said in a statement:

"Despite many recent improvements, there are still concerns about discriminatory practices against Tamils by law enforcement officials."

"The UN Human Rights Council noted in April that Sri Lanka saw a spate of arrests of Tamils under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). Arrests carried out under the PTA have, in a number of cases, failed to meet the minimum standards of due process laid out in directives by Sri Lanka’s National Human Rights Commission. Tamil Sri Lankans remain deeply concerned about what they say is a persistent culture of surveillance in the north and east of the country."

Fishermen in Aceh supported the boat on June 11. However, Indonesian authorities have ordered that no one should be allowed to disembark as they lack necessary documentation.

“Refugees and asylum-seekers frequently travel without identity documents, as often these documents are either difficult to obtain or get lost during the journey. This has no consequence on these people’s right to seek asylum. UNHCR should be allowed to register them immediately,” Mr Benedict said.

"We are calling on the Indonesian authorities to adopt a consistent approach in these cases. Last year Indonesia won much acclaim for providing refugees and migrants with much-needed assistance during the Andaman Sea boat crisis. It will be a grave injustice if people seeking international protection had their right to seek asylum ignored in Indonesia,” he added.