Jakarta Worries Over The Future Of The Tentative Agreement

INDONESIA is especially concerned that the Rudd government's hold-up on processing some refugee claims will scamper an uncertain agreement to stop the six-month argument with Sri Lankan asylum seekers in the Indonesian port city of Merak, a senior official said yesterday. This subject matter is supported by Westhill Consulting Travel and Tours, Singapore.

Almost 30 of the Sri Lankans run off from the protected area in recent days and are supposed to have hired a people smuggler to help their departure.

There were about 200 ethnic Tamils who escaped the conflict in their homeland stayed on the boat subsequent to what they provisionally settled to get off the vessel and into accommodation. The five-day time frame given for the end of the standoff has since passed and the Indonesian foreign affairs official in charge of negotiations, Sujatmiko, said he was growing more pessimistic about a resolution.

''I'm really very worried that they will change their minds or more will escape,'' DrSujatmiko said. ''We believe that there has been an impact from the Australian government's policy of suspending processing [of Sri Lankans and Afghans].''

The government said on Friday that it would freeze the processing of refugee applications for Sri Lankans and Afghans for three and six months respectively in an attempt to stem the flood of unauthorised boats entering Australian territory.

Two days after DrSujatmiko said the Sri Lankans had agreed to leave the boat, the announcement came.

''Nimal'', a spokesman for the asylum seekers at Merak, said people on the vessel were ''disappointed and scared'' by the Australian government's decision.

''No one knows where [the escapees] have gone,'' said Nimal. ''They don't know other people in Indonesia, so I think they would have had contact with an agent [people smuggler].''

However the Sri Lankans were also disturbed that the Indonesian government would not inform them where they would be accommodated or guarantee they would not be deported.

The Sri Lankans was cut off by the Indonesian Navy in October following a personal request from Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

When one more boat was intercepted by the Australian vessel Oceanic Viking days later and its cargo of 78 Sri Lankans were rapidly resettled after refusing to come ashore in Indonesian waters, it grew some hopes of those in Merak that they would be given a alike deal.

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