ICC NOTE: The Tamil people are predominately located in India and Sri Lanka with some finding homes in Southeast Asia. A boat carrying 40 individuals including children and pregnant women was forced to dock in the Indonesian province of Aceh when their engine failed. They were likely fleeing from persecution in India attempting to reach Christmas Island, an Australian territory. The Indonesian government has requested the province to take the refugees in but local authorities are planning to push the boat out to sea despite the national government’s directive. Aceh has received special authority by Indonesia to be ruled under the Islamic law known as Sharia, making it the only province to do so.
6/17/2016 Aceh, Indonesia (New York Times) – Authorities in the Indonesian province of Aceh are preparing to tow a boat with more than 40 Tamil men, women and children out to sea Friday after rescuing it last weekend.
It would be the second attempt in the past week to remove the vessel from Indonesian waters after it suffered engine trouble and was discovered stranded last Saturday.
The migrants have been at sea for about a month and were trying to reach the Australian territory of Christmas Island.
The province is refusing to let the migrants, which include nine children and a pregnant woman, land despite Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla asking Aceh officials to provide shelter. On Thursday, six women tried to leave the boat as it sat in shallow waters but police fired warning shots.
“We did not allow them to land because Indonesia is not their destination and they are fit,” said Frans Delian, a spokesman for the Aceh government. “We advised them to not continue their journey to Australia but back to their country.”
Immigration officials said the people were from Sri Lanka. Amnesty International said in a statement that the group left from India in an Indian-flagged boat and may have fled Sri Lanka, where members of the Tamil minority have suffered persecution.
Delian said their situation is different from stateless Muslim Rohingya boat people who were helped by Indonesian authorities last year after fleeing persecution in Myanmar. Southeast Asian nations including predominantly Muslim Indonesia were reluctant to help until facing international pressure over the plight of Rohingya adrift at sea with minimal supplies of food or water.
Rights groups urged the Indonesia government to let the migrants disembark.
“Indonesia won praise when it helped Rohingya refugees in Aceh,” said Andreas Harsono, Indonesia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “It is a shame that the Indonesian and Aceh local government refuse to assist these Tamil boat people.”