More Sri Lankans waiting to seek asylum
The Age (Melbourne)
February 28, 2007
ANOTHER group of at least 150 Sri Lankans asylum seekers is in Indonesia waiting for boats to smuggle them into Australia, it was claimed yesterday.
Australian officials confirmed they were concerned about a flood of asylum seekers from Sri Lanka and had been anticipating departures from Indonesia.
Sources said Australian police had identified two suspected people smugglers associated with last week's boatload of 83 Sri Lankans. Indonesian police have agreed to arrest the pair.
Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews has signalled the Government is focused on returning the 83 to Indonesia, saying it was important to send the “strongest possible message of deterrence”.
But Mr Andrews said that would be ruled out if Indonesia would not agree to the asylum seekers being processed under United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee guidelines. Indonesia has effectively ruled that out already.
Dissident Liberal backbenchers Bruce Baird and Judi Moylan, who last year opposed the Government's plans to force the processing of all asylum seekers offshore, have said the Sri Lankans should be processed on Christmas Island, where they are being held. Some claim to have been tortured by the Sri Lankan army in Jaffna.
Those allegedly waiting to come are all males under the age of 25, students, and most are Tamils, who claim to have been escaping persecution.
Some were under 18, Sri Lankan community sources in Melbourne and Sri Lankan said.
Like the 83 intercepted last week, they have been waiting in Indonesia for up to five months to be taken by smugglers to a third country such as Australia.
They were sent away from Sri Lanka by parents who feared their sons would be killed if they stayed. The parents sold or mortgaged their homes or valuables in order to get their sons away to safety, a source said.
They come from Sir Lanka's eastern and northern provinces, which are in the control of government forces.
They are targeted by the Sri Lankan security forces “because of their age and ethnicity” they believe because they are Tamils they must have been recruited by the insurgent fighters, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which forcibly conscripts youth, a community leader said.
One 23-year old male who is waiting on a people smuggler to get him out of Indonesia is Subhas Yokeswaran, who flew to Jakarta with 55 other youths in October.
From Jakarta, he told yesterday of how he was seized by the Sri Lankan army on suspicion of being a Tamil Tiger member, simply because he was a Tamil.
The exodus of young Tamils followed the resumption of hostilities last year between the Tamil Tigers and government forces.
With MARK FORBES, JEWEL TOPSFIELD
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