Refugee Action Coalition MEDIA RELEASE
In the aftermath of the rescue of a 74 asylum seekers’ boat yesterday, the refugee advocate who alerted Australian border protection authorities to the distressed boat has called on the Rudd government to end the crack down on asylum seekers and people smugglers in Indonesia.
“Pushing Indonesian and Malaysian governments to detain and arrest asylum seekers and people smugglers is putting refugees’ lives in danger,” Ian Rintoul said.
Ian Rintoul, of the Refugee Action Coalition, received a message from Pakistan early Wednesday morning that there was a boat was in distress. After finally making contact with the boat, he alerted Border Protection Command who contacted Indonesian rescue authorities.
“The last message I received from the boat said ‘My mobile has no power now. I can’t contact you any more. May God help us,’” said Rintoul. The boat was eventually found and the 74 people on board are now reported to be safe near Komodo Island.
“It was an extremely worrying time. In my first contact with the boat, I could hear the water lapping in the background. The asylum seekers were extremely anxious and had been without engine power for almost twelve hours. But they were also very worried about being picked up by Indonesian police. They asked me not to send Indonesian police,” Rintoul said.
“The government crack down now means that asylum seekers are now fearful of Indonesian police. They are fleeing persecution by Indonesian police, encouraged by the Australian government as well as the persecution they faced in Sri Lanka or Afghanistan.
“The government should begin to process in Indonesia and Malaysia. There would be no need for dangerous boat rides, if the Australian government would undertake processing in Indonesia. That is the humanitarian thing to do.
“The vast majority of the asylum seekers coming here are genuine refugees. The government recognizes that asylum seekers are being pushed by the instability in Sri Lanka and Pakistan but they are putting obstacles in the way of people who need protection.
“Asylum seekers have become fearful that they will ever get protection. The Australian government policy is making it more likely that people will use unsafe and ill-equipped boats to get to Australia.
“Thank goodness, the boat yesterday was saved, but the policies of the Australian government will mean that more people will be put in danger. Already there have been reports that two or three boats have sunk trying to reach Australia. If the government was really concerned about the safety of asylum seeker they would be processing people in Indonesia – not forcing to use people smugglers.”
For more information, contact Ian Rintoul mobile 0417 275 713.