Posted by: joan49 | September 12, 2012

Karen’s Situation

This is from Karen’s dad. At her request, I am sending along some information in regard to an international refugee situation that she has become involved in. She is suffering from lack of sleep due to the situation and obviously hasn’t had the time or energy to put together a cohesive chronology of what is currently happening. She has forwarded to me a series of e-mails. I’ll summarize, using her own words in quotes as well as some advice to her from someone else. I’ll offer some comments IN CAPITAL LETTERS to help fill in the blanks. First, from Karen:
“One week ago, 2 boats carrying almost 100 people showed up here from Sri Lanka .The people are fleeing their country and wanting to make it to Christmas Island (A TERRITORY OF AUSTRALIA) where they will seek asylum. Unfortunately they ran out of diesel upon reaching Mentawai so are now temporarily stranded. I heard about this last week, but until Saturday only knew that the boats were asking to buy diesel so they could continue their journey, and since we don’t have any diesel here either, the boats were being forced to wait. Turns out it’s more complicated…

Apparently it is illegal for refugees to transit through Indonesian waters on their way to Australia, so it is highly doubtful the Indonesian government will grant them passage but will probably detain them somewhere in Indonesia. The refugees do not trust the government and are afraid of being sent back to Sri Lanka. They are demanding to speak with IOM, an international organization associated with the UN and are hunger striking and refusing to leave their boat until that can be arranged. Saturday made Day 8 of the hunger strike and many of the refugees started passing out on their boat, hence I was called in to provide medical assistance. Once I was there, the local police and military requested my help in communicating with the refugees because while a few of the refugees speak some broken English, none speak Indonesian, and none of Sikakap’s local government officials speak English. So, I’ve become the unofficial mediator/negotiator for the refugees. Right now all negotiations are on hold as we wait a decision from Jakarta, but I’ve been busy the last two days providing medical assistance to the refugees and trying to convince them to at least allow the most ill refugees to come to the Catholic clinic for treatment, and also let the women and children off to bathe, brush their teeth, etc. They are desperately afraid of being arrested if they leave their boat, but finally agreed to allow a pregnant women and another 18 year old boy go to the clinic for medical attention and have also allowed the children off the boat to bathe, all on the condition that I personally stay with them to ensure their safe return to the boat. This coming Wednesday (the day I’m scheduled to leave Sikakap FOR A PLANNED TEAM MEETING will make Day 12 of the hunger strike…
I am trying to get in touch with UNHCR in Jakarta to send someone here to help negotiate their demands, and am hoping at the very least that someone from the government or immigration or IOM or wherever will show up this Wednesday on the boat – WHO SPEAKS ENGLISH – who can take over negotiations and then I can leave. But there is a chance that may not happen, in which case I cannot in good conscience leave Sikakap knowing there will be no one left to translate and advocate for them. But I won’t know until Wednesday whether I can leave or not. So, there is a possibility I will not be attending this meeting after all…and I apologize in advance if that happens.
So that is the update, as of this morning. I appreciate your prayers for the refugees and for all involved that some reasonable solution can be brokered – before the refugees start dying. They have adamantly stated they would rather die here then be sent back to Sri Lanka…
Signing out from Sikakap, the international hub of Absolutely No Where…
Peace,
Karen

AT THIS POINT IT WOULD APPEAR THAT KAREN IS INVOLVED WITH SIMPLY PROVIDING MEDICAL HELP AND INTERPRETER SERVICES FOR THE GROUP. HOWEVER A LATER E-MAIL TO HER FROM SOMEONE WHO IS MORE INVOLVED IN REFUGEE ACTIVITIES HAS SHED SOME NEW LIGHT. FROM HER FRIEND:
“It is highly illegal for refugees to transit through Indonesian waters on the way to Australia. The refugees on this boat will not be given permission to continue their journey and they will be detained. They can go on a hunger strike but it will be to no avail. Indonesia has refused to sign off on the UN treaty for humane treatment of refugees. And these refugees are not likely to get the luxury of going to Australia’s 2 new, very primitive, detention centers on Christmas Island at this time. I am fairly positive that they will be put into detention here in Indonesia somewhere until they can bribe their way free – usually $1000-2000 a person. Or they may escape. This is always a viable option in Indonesian detention centers and happens all the time. But they are likely being left on the boat until a suitable temporary detention location can be obtained for them. My guess is that a local hotel will be rented for the time being after it is made secure. Then they will be transferred to one of the official detention centers.
There is a huge problem with refugees transiting through Indonesian territory. People smuggling is a nightmare politically for both the Indonesian and Australian governments. Not only do several hundred refugees die each year in Indonesian waters, but they bring drugs, guns, and prostitution into the country and contribute to the bribery problem. The police, military, and immigration are involved in the smuggling and sometimes compete. They are each always trying to catch their rival’s smugglers.

I know some of the smugglers personally and they are a wretched lot!!! We know of at least 10 smuggling rings operating in Indonesia at the moment and they are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people each year through negligence and greed.

And then there are the refugees themselves. If you are going to get involved in this, buckle in for the ride. You will see the entire range of sin and vice from male prostitution, rape, incest, weird cults, drunken orgies, etc. We have been absolutely astounded at the depth of depravity we have seen in many of these refugees. Don’t trust anything they say as being the absolute truth until you have had some experience with them. But remember that these are exactly the kind of people Jesus ministered with – so it is the Christ-like thing to do to help them. Just be prepared! Many of these refugees are not the innocents that they seem on the surface. They are survivors and will literally do whatever it takes, including harming you, if it gets them to where they are going.

And then there are those few decent folks who are leaving their country for all the right reasons and just wanting a safe place to raise their families. They are in desperate need of a hand of compassion. It is fairly impossible to sort out who is who!”
WE CERTAINLY HOPE THAT THOSE IN THE LAST PARAGRAPH ARE THE 100 PEOPLE THAT KAREN IS TRYING TO HELP BUT UNDERSTAND SHE SEES THAT HER MISSION IS TO HELP ALL OF GOD’S CHILDREN IN NEED.

“One of the best things you can do for these refugees right now is provide good food, clean water, and encouragement to them that someone knows their plight and cares about them. If they stay in Mentawi very long, try to get them some Bibles in their language. They will hold onto their faith very tightly in this time of trouble. I would avoid helping them with phones as they will use this for escapes and hooking up with smugglers. They will get the phones on their own – as they have resources they are not going to tell you about. You will need to get the right permissions for this through the immigration department. Avoid bribing your way in, as once you start giving bribes to get your good to the refugees, you will always have to bribe your way in. Remember that this is big money for the Immigration department as the bribery involved with illegal immigrants goes all the way to the very top!”
THERE IS EVEN ANOTHER ASPECT TO THIS ISSUE. IT SEEMS THAT THE AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT IS LESS THAN THRILLED TO HAVE THESE REFUGEES ARRIVE. HERE IS A LINK TO A WEB SITE (NOTE THE TITLE) THAT DESCRIBES WHAT SEEMS TO BE A CONTROVERSIAL ISSUE IN AUSTRALIA.
http://www.wsws.org/articles/2012/aug2012/refu-a16.shtml
THIS IS WHAT WE KNOW NOW, AS OF MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 10TH. SHE SAYS SHE’LL SEND FURTHER WORD AS WELL AS SOME PICTURES WHEN SHE HAS THE CHANCE. MEANWHILE PLEASE JOIN JUDY AND ME IN KEEPING KAREN IN OUR PRAYERS AS WELL AS ALL OF THE REFUGEES IN THE WORLD.

IN CHRISTIAN PARTNERSHIP,

Les Alford


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