Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sri Lankan migrants arrested in Indonesia 'very ill'

Daily Mirror 13th October 2009

The Sri Lankan migrants captured off Indonesian waters are in very poor condition and are still feeling tired due to the long journey in the sea, Indonesian authorities say.

Head of information department of Indonesian Navy, First Admiral Iskandar Sitompul told BBC Sinhala service that many Tamil nationals were among the captured migrants who have been “floating in the sea” for many days.

30 women and 30 children are among the 260 migrants in a cargo ship intercepted by the Indonesian authorities on Sunday, he added.

The migrants, suspected of trying to sail illegally to Australia , were captured on Sunday by the Indonesian authorities.

First Admiral Iskandar Sitompul added that the migrants are still being questioned “one by one” in the sea off Merak harbour by navy officials.

The migrants might be allowed into Indonesia , “hopefully tomorrow” after the interrogations, he added, and will be detained in migration centres.

The migrants had set sail from Malaysia and paid nearly 15,000 US dollars per person to a people smuggler, he told BBC Indonesian service.

“First they went to Singapore then Malaysia , but not all together. They started the journey in July and at the end a total of 260 people met up in Malaysia ,” First Admiral Sitompul said.

He added that the migrants had had food when they left Malaysia , but now the food is finished, and when found, some of them were malnourished.

Most of them have skin problems because of the condition on the boat. Some have broken bones and four of them were admitted to the hospital.

A spokesman at the Sri Lankan embassy in Indonesia told BBC Sandeshaya that they were not informed of the incident.

Hundreds of thousands of Tamil nationals have left Sri Lanka as a result of the conflict between the Sri Lanka military and Tamil Tigers.

Although the military conflict has ended in May, many Tamil nationals are still trying to migrate, usually by illegal means, to the West and other countries.

In an apparent attempt to turn the tide, Australia recently deported six Sri Lankan illegal migrants.

The Sri Lankan high commissioner in Australia has told the media that all of the deported were Sinhala nationals and there was no threat to their life in Sri Lanka . (BBC Sinhala)

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