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Sri Lanka to bring refugees home

Jun 23, 2016
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Sri Lanka is willing to bring home all the Australia-bound Tamil asylum seekers stranded in Indonesia if they wish to return, Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Harsha de Silva said.

The Deputy Minister said the Sri Lankan Ambassador in Jakarta had informed him that the Government of Indonesia has approved a team from the Sri Lankan mission to meet the 43 refugees in Aceh. Accordingly, a three-member team will be sent to Aceh Thursday to interview the asylum seekers.

Some of the refugees claim to be from Sri Lanka, but lived in South India for ages, Deputy Minister de Silva said.

“First thing tomorrow morning a three member team will be leaving to the location where they are now housed 250 km away from where their rickety boat, which is no longer sea worthy was beached. They will interview everyone to establish their identity,” the Deputy Minister said in a Facebook post.

“Our position is that if they wish to return voluntarily we will bring everyone back home with the help of IOM and UNHCR,” he said.

Indonesia Saturday allowed the group of asylum seekers, who were confined for over a week in their stranded boat in Lhoknga Coast in Aceh Province, to come ashore after a tense stand-off.

UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are lobbying the Aceh authorities to move the 44 Tamil asylum seekers, consisting of 20 men, 15 women including a pregnant woman and nine children to a detention center in the province.

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