The Jakarta Post
Indonesia has vowed to provide humanitarian assistance to 43 Tamil migrants from Sri Lanka stranded in Aceh and connect them with the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), having permitted them to come ashore after a week of attempting to force them back out to sea.
“UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration [IOM] will further assist us in data gathering and provision of humanitarian assistance,” Immigration Directorate General spokesman Heru Santoso Anantan Yudha said in a press conference on Tuesday.
The assistance included providing tents as temporary shelters and repairing the migrants’ Indian-flagged boat, which ran aground on the coast of Lhoknga in Aceh Besar regency. The migrants were heading to Australia.
The government has also assigned doctors to check the migrants' health, with most of them found to be suffering from exhaustion after being at sea for more than 20 days during their journey from their homeland in Sri Lanka before found by Lhoknga fishermen on June 11.
The immigration office has also contacted the Sri Lankan and Indian embassies regarding the matter, but has received no response, Heru said.
The officials will make sure that the stranded Tamils are indeed asylum seekers with the help of UNHCR and the IOM. If proven to fulfill the qualifications as asylum seekers, the immigration office will let the two international bodies handle them.
However, in the case they are not real asylum seekers, the government will repatriate them with funds from the respective embassy. No time limit has been placed on how long the migrants may stay in Aceh, Heru added. (rin)
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