Indonesia ‘Mistreating’ Refugee Disaster Survivors

Two new boats arrived in Australia at the beginning of 2012 carrying asylum seekers — as another group who survived a boat disaster began a hunger strike in Indonesia.

The December 18 boat disaster off the Indonesian island of Java left an estimated 200 dead.

Those who survived have begun a hunger strike after being moved to a detention center where as many as 12 people are sharing each cell and they claim they are being taunted by guards and kept in inhumane conditions.

”One of us has lost 11 members of his family,” said Noroz Yousefi, an Iranian asylum seeker.

”He is going crazy in here. There are 12 of us in one room and they won’t let us go outside, even to get some air.”

”When we asked, the guards shouted at us and said, ‘This is our country and we can do with you what we want.”’

Activists have put part of the blame for the tragedy on Australian policy.

“The policy of detaining asylum seekers in Indonesia means asylum seekers risk imprisonment if they contact authorities if they are concerned about the seaworthiness of any boat. The fact that Australia impounds and destroys the vessels that bring asylum seekers here means boats used are more likely to be unseaworthy. The crossing from Indonesia is these boats’ last voyage,” said Ian Rintoul, Refugee Action Collective (RAC) spokesperson.

“It doesn’t matter how unsafe the boat is, refugees will try to get to Australia because that is often the only place where they can be safe.”

Meanwhile, controversy has erupted over claims that new media guidelines on privacy could lead to the disappearance of media coverage of arriving boats on TV. The Immigration Department say non-identification of asylum seekers had long been department policy, in part because identification could pose a threat to the families of asylum seekers in their home countries. But they have also been criticized for blocking investigation of detention centers and allowing cameras into them.

Sue Bolton, a spokeswoman for RAC, told the Sydney Morning Herald that identification was an important part of ensuring asylum seekers did not become dehumanised but stressed their consent should be sought.

Related stories:

Hunger and Cold Stalk Immigration Detainees in U.S.

Returned Congolese Refugees Face Torture, Abuse

Australia Releases Detained Asylum Seekers

Asylum seekers protesting on the roof of the Villawood immigration detention centre in Sydney, Australia. Picture Wikimedia.


SeattleAnn S.
Ann S6 years ago

This is terrible. Indonesia gets the vast majority of their money to take care of their citizens from international funds (exports, tourism, etc.). Where do they get off treating people from other countries like this?

Chad A.
Chad Anderson6 years ago

The ethical response that springs to mind is how I would want to be treated if I were in their shoes. I have known a lot of migrants in different countries and for different reasons. Regardless of status, all people deserve humane treatment and a basic level of respect. Regardless of policy there are good and bad ways to treat people and people do not usually go on a hunger strike when they are being treated with respect.

KS Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Kristina C.
Kristina C6 years ago

Unbelievable - but when the time comes Indosnesia needs assistance - I am sure they will hold their hands open!

Please sign:

Rob and Jay B.
Jay S6 years ago

While many illegal immigrants are simply looking to make money or live off the dole, many are escaping persecution & often certain death & torture. They don't have the luxury of applying for legal immigrant status, but must flee literally for their lives. There have been stories of LGBT people, for instance, fleeing places like Iran & Saudi Arabia where they are persecuted, tortured & murdered by the state, but they have been denied asylum in places like the US,UK & Sweden even & sent back to certain death.

It's not as easy for some to get in as is commonly believed. Yet, there are immigrants that seem to just slip in & live off the public welfare systems in many EU countries (62% of welfare recipients in Denmark) who have no skills, education or socially redeeming qualities. There are an estimated 20,000 immigrant polygamous males in the UK, which is illegal there, whose many wives & uncountable kids are being supported by the hardworking taxpayers. One must wonder how these freeloaders, who often have no respect for the country's culture, customs or laws, get away with it & get to stay while many with legitimate claims for refugee status get refused & sent back quickly.

Berny P.
berny p6 years ago

They needn't expect a big welcome from anyone who values his own country..

the Other RobertO
Robert O6 years ago

Australia has always had stiff requirements to immigrate - including a useful skill set. It is not surprising that they would be intolerant of boat people. That said, this sounds like a rather inhumane situation.

Victoria Pitchford
Vicky P6 years ago

a lot of people there are already mistreated and poor by the government so..why do they think they will get respect

Ernest R.
Ernest R6 years ago

Irresponsible overpopulation has reached the point that there is no room left for people in their own countries so they take desperate risks to go uninvited to another country that also has no reelisticslly available room. They needn't expect a big welcome from anyone who values his own country..

Berny P.
berny p6 years ago