Refugee Action Coalition MEDIA RELEASE
 
Some of the 74 Afghan asylum seekers feared lost at sea Indonesian waters
fours days ago have made it to land. Fifteen of them are presently in the
Indonesian police station at Bima.

The asylum seekers contacted Ian Rintoul from Bima police station around
midday today, Saturday. They are anxious and distressed, having kept
isoltatred at the poklcie station since last night. They expect another
group to be brought to the police station later today. But they are
extremely worried that another 20 or 25 have been lost.

The group made it to land when they were picked up by another small boat
who took them to land. But they were unsure what has happened to others on
the boat. They told Ian Rintoul that the original boat has gone. The water
was very rough, and it was windy. It was not good, they said. We do not
know where the other people are – they are lot in the water or in the
jungle.”

But they are not sure that everyone on the distressed boat did make it
safely to land.

“Please tell everyone,” Rintoul was told, “We called the Australian police.
We called the Indonesian police. Why didn’t they help us? For four nights
we were on the water. No-one came.”

Ian Rintou, a spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition re-iterated his
call for the Rudd government to end the crack down on asylum seekers and
people smugglers in Indonesia.

“Pushing the Indonesian governments to detain and arrest asylum seekers and
people smugglers is putting refugees’ lives in danger,” Ian Rintoul said.

“Please try to understand,” one text message to Rintoul, from the Afghan
asylum seekers said, “ we are compelled to put our lives at risk.”

“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 processing asylum seekers 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.

“Now the question is whether the Australian authorities gave sufficient
support for these distressed boat to be found. Some people have made it to
shore, but lives may have been tragically lost. It is a miracle that anyone
made it to land.”

“The Australian government will put more people in danger. 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.

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