We’ve written extensively about the US State Department’s policy of taking aliens who arrived in Malta* illegally and magically turning them into “refugees” destined for the US. Legitimate refugees and asylum seekers are to request asylum in the first country in which they land, not expect to be moved on to other countries, but that is just what this Malta policy model is encouraging.
Now, comes word we are taking Tamil “bachelors” who attempted to get into Australia and ended up in a lengthy stand-off with Australian Customs authorities and the Indonesian government and resettling them in Oakland, CA.
From the Contra Costa Times:
OAKLAND — They were jailed in Indonesia, stranded in Romania and rescued by Australia off the coast of Sumatra, all in the last eight months.
So it was a big relief to Nisanth Segaranantham and his friends when they landed in Oakland last month. The 27-year-old Sri Lankan refugee is savoring his freedom to roam the city, shop for his own groceries and look for a job.
“We can go anywhere, anytime, anyplace, no problem,” he said.
Segaranantham was one of 78 Sri Lankans who crowded aboard an Indonesian fishing boat and set sail for Australia in October. As ethnic Tamils, they faced discrimination in Sri Lanka and hoped to find political asylum in Australia. But the ship began sinking on the way.
I told you here about plans to resettle the 78 (never identified at that time as Tamils) to other countries but he US was not mentioned.
They threatened to kill themselves if Australia didn’t take them. Now, not surprisingly, they are thrilled to be here!
Australia did send help — a customs patrol vessel called the Oceanic Viking. Once rescued, however, the Sri Lankans refused to get off the customs ship and demanded assurance Australia would welcome them to its shores. Some threatened to jump to their deaths in the Indian Ocean if they did not find refuge.
The result was a weeks-long diplomatic row between Indonesia and Australia, neither of which wanted to take custody of the migrants. So controversial was the impasse that it dented the popularity of Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and fueled a war of words in the Parliament. A weak response, Rudd’s critics said, would send hundreds more asylum-seekers sailing to Australia in rickety boats.
That controversy continues, but Segaranantham and Sivabalasundaram are not looking back. They are thrilled to be in the United States.
No remote prison, but resettlement to the US thanks to the US State Department and the International Rescue Committee.
They never intended to come to America, but their failed trip to Australia put them on a roundabout path to Oakland. At first, they thought Australian authorities would take them to Christmas Island. A remote prison complex there houses many of Australia’s asylum-seekers.
Instead, after a month aboard the Oceanic Viking, they ended up in a detention center in the Indonesian port of Tanjung Pinang, where the United Nations refugee agency looked for places that would take them in. The United States accepted 28 refugees, granting them permanent legal residency in the country. Others were sent to Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Europe. Those heading to North America spent several weeks waiting in a refugee camp in Romania, a transit point where international organizations determined their final destination.
Tamil Tigers were defeated by the Government of Sri Lanka in 2009, but not to worry the Oakland “bachelors” are likely not Tigers, right?
Sri Lanka’s 25-year-old civil war ended in May 2009, when government forces defeated the Tamil Tigers, whose rebel forces had waged a brutal guerrilla war to create a separate state. Tens of thousands of people died since fighting began in 1983.
Ethnic Tamils, who represent less than 20 percent of the Sri Lankan population but are a majority in the north, were often caught in the middle — especially young men suspected of being rebels. Humanitarian groups say they still face persecution.
Do you know what the ruthless Tamil Tigers are famous for—they invented the suicide belt and were (or still are) listed as a terrorist organization by the US.
* We have written many many posts on Malta and the policy established by the US State Department during the Bush years and now under Obama to take some of Malta’s illegal alien Somalis off their hands and resettle them to the US. Search RRW for ‘Malta’ to learn more.