Australia Reassures Indonesia On Tamils

Australia reassures Indonesia on Tamils

December 8, 2009

Australia has assured Indonesia it will honour its commitment to rapidly resettle the 78 Tamil asylum seekers who spent almost a month aboard the Oceanic Viking.

Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor on Tuesday said Australia was working closely with Indonesia and the United National High Commissioner for Refugees to assess the Tamils' asylum claims and begin resettlement.

“We've got an arrangement,” O'Connor told reporters in Jakarta.

“We've made it very clear that we will ensure that we realise the agreement that was struck between Indonesia and Australia.

“That's our focus and we will continue to work through those matters with the Indonesian authorities.”

Indonesian immigration authorities this week claimed none of the Tamils had yet been fully processed, even though the first are due to be resettled as early as this week.

Australia picked up the Tamils in international waters inside Indonesia's search and rescue zone in October and took them to the Indonesian island of Bintan.

But the Tamils refused to leave the Australian vessel and enter Bintan's detention centre, sparking a four-week standoff.

The Rudd government finally enticed them ashore with the promise of rapid processing and resettlement in a third country – most likely Australia.

Under the special deal, the government promised Indonesia that those assessed as refugees would be resettled within four to 12 weeks.

This Friday marks four weeks since the first of the Tamils came ashore.