Stop Sri Lanka, not its refugees


James ElderIn 2007, then opposition leader Kevin Rudd outfoxed prime minister John Howard in a game of political one-upmanship that was dubbed 'me-tooism'. Copying popular government policies was arguably the decisive factor that took Labor to victory in the federal election.

Once the election was over, Rudd moved on and proceeded to implement policies based on principle. We had the ratification of Kyoto, the apology to Indigenous Australians, and more. But now his government has been caught by surprise with the rapid upsurge in the number of refugee boat arrivals, and political instinct is once again determining how it acts.

Rudd said last week: 'Our job, and I make no apology for it, is to take a hardline approach in dealing with the challenge of illegal immigration.' The media juxtaposed this with Howard's infamous hard line from the time of Tampa: 'We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.'

In intercepting refugee boats on the high seas to prevent them reaching Australia, the Rudd Government is pursuing the unprincipled strategy for which it criticised the Howard Government. Further, it has co-opted Indonesia. The people on the boats have a right to have their claims examined, and it should be a source of pride for us to honour them by listening to their stories.

On Thursday, Crikey's Guy Rundle wrote on 'the basic right to fight and kick and scream to find refuge'. He was encouraging public pressure, particularly from 'church groups who should be out loud and early on the matter'. After all, as Rundle said, 'you have to be a most un-Christlike Christian ... to believe that one can disregard the "when I was homeless you took me in" provision, whenever the visitors have brown skin'.

There are a number of positive measures the Government can take to assist these people in their fight for basic human rights. One is to make a strident attempt to seek answers from the Sri Lankan Government on why so many Tamils are fleeing the country, especially if the the war is over and peace has returned.

It does appear that the Sri Lankan Government has fresh blood on its hands, and doesn't want the world to know about it. Last month, the Sri Lankan Government expelled UNICEF spokesperson James Elder (pictured), who was outspoken on the plight of civilians displaced during Sri Lanka's civil war. After receiving death threats, he left the country earlier than his 21 September deadline.

Elder is an Australian but, as far as we know, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith has only responded passively in a speech to Federal Parliament. To our knowledge, he has not even sought an explanation from his Sri Lankan counterpart Rohitha Bogollagama.

For his part, Kevin Rudd has said that Australia is merely 'monitoring human rights' in Sri Lanka. There is no talk of active questioning that could lead to an official fact finding mission that might subsequently prompt economic sanctions.

It is notable that this passive response to the Sri Lankan Government's apparent human rights violations is in stark contrast with the active interception of refugee boats. It is to be hoped that church and other groups who care about human rights do not follow the lead of their government and simply stand by where firm action is required.

Michael MullinsMichael Mullins is editor of Eureka Street.

Topic tags: rudd, boat people, refugees, sri lanka, james elder, tamils, michael mullins



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Existing comments

The Vatican curial office for migrants and refugees stated some time ago that it is an inviolable human right for people to seek protection and sanctuary when threats would put their and their family's lives in danger.
And, as a flow-on from this, all people have an obligation to offer that protection and sanctuary.

Again, Australia and Australians are being let down by their Government in the treatment given to assylum seekers.

Michale Mullins puts this in the right context, it is not so much as how to handle the issue when the people-smugglers have got a hold of the refugees, but what are our policies to put to the people-smugglers out of business and to be the ones to offer assistance to our brothers and sisters in need.

I remember seeing old film footage of the number of Australian, USA and British ships at anchor in various parts of the world when war or strife was creating hardship for people. The ships were there to pick up people and take them to a new start in life. The ships were there to rescue people.

People-smuggling businesses have been allowed to flourish because of our lack of charity.

Fr Mick Mac Andrew, Bombala NSW | 19 October 2009  

The answer to your question, why so many tamils flee sri lanka', is for economic gains. And they have been granted a free licence just to accuse the sri lankan government when ever they want to leave the country. The question you should ask is why do all these tamils flee to all the developed countries? Why not to India? where they speak the same language? The answer is some tamils do but those are the genuine refugees who are really exploited by the government... There are so many innocent tamils who still suffer partly due to action of LTTE and the government. Its pathatic to see how these so called asylam seekers sell our mother land just to fullfill there selfish desires.. Ironically more than 50% of the population in capital city colombo are tamils and they operate majority of the businesses and still they say they can't live in Sri Lanka.

Milinda | 19 October 2009  

The following question is not intended to be rhetorical. If Australia imposed economic sanctions on Sri Lanka, would it be at all likely to sway the Sri Lankan government?

Many people who argue that Australia should lower its emissions of C02 imagine that India and China will take note, and feel moral pressure to follow suit. I think that they are deluded. I doubt that Australia's actions in the fight against climate change count for much in the corridors of power in New Delhi and Beijing.

Why would economic sanctions give us any leverage against Sri Lanka?

Patrick James | 19 October 2009  

If you know the whole truth you won't write this type of article. Let me tell you something the girl who spoke (in refuges boat) can spek very good english & these refugees look quite healthy. IDP TAMIL PEOPLE DIDN'T HAVE FOOD, MEDICINE, SHELTER OR EDUCATION WHILE THEY WERE HELD & CONTROLLED BY LTTE. ANSWER IS HARD CORE LTTE MEMBERS & THEIR CLOSE FAMILY MEMBERS ARE TRYING TO COME TO AUSTRALIA. ONE WONDER THE GIRL WHO SPOKE WAS FROM SRI LANKA.

KJ | 19 October 2009  

This writer fails to distinguish between economic immigrants and those who flee political harassment. If it is only the latter, the Tamils can easily go to nearby India. I am a Tamil and I live quite happily in a suburb of Colombo. This reporter can come to Colombo and live there a few months to understand the reality. These crooks bring dishonour to the Tamil name

nadesan | 19 October 2009  

The reason these Tamils are headed towards Australia and not towards Tamil Nadu in India should be clear to even a teenager. They are coming to your country for the economic gain and have no conscience about lying through their teeth about "genocide" and concentration camps in SL. Wish that some of these idiots had lived through the Rwandan genocide and Hitler's killer camps. As someone pointed out in this thread heck of a lot of Tamils live in Colombo amidst the Sinhala majority and own most of the big businesses in the country. Talk about genocide!!!!! These bogus refugees are insulting the victims of true genocide and using these blatant lies to gain the "soft" sympathy of the Westerners.
Yes, by all means Australia should be kind to genuine refugees, and not to mention their own indigenous people the aborigines.

As for these bogus Tamil group on this ship, I applaud Kevin Rudd's decision on them. They can't threaten and lie their way into Australia.

SL govt is not perfect, and I'm not denying that Tamils may not have been given a fair treatment by the successive SL govts. But, open your eyes and observe the Tamil mentality too. They threaten to blow themselves and others up, they threaten to go on hunger strikes endangering little kids, they put women and children in harm's way and then they lick the boots of the westerner. Sri Lanka has had a nauseating amount of such behaviour from the Tamils ever since the 1940's. They are just 20% of the population and had the idea that 2/3 of the country should go to them to form their own country. Then the terrorists did an ethnic cleansing of the "Tamil" areas by not only chasing away the Sinhalese residents but also the Muslims. So no one is perfect or blameless in this whole sorry story of Sri Lanka.

The British did great harm to the country when they propped up the Tamil minority and sidelined the majority Sinhalese. The Tamils were willing to lick the boots of the British, acquiescing to them, while the Sinhalese (the majority) was always rebelling against the British to get them out of their land. Hence the British favoritism of the Tamil. After independence the Sinhalese took control. This was not done in a fair manner, I agree. But to kill and set of bombs in order to gain 2/3 of the country in order to have their own land is pure terrorism. No country should allow it.

Australia and all other countries if they want to can take constructive steps to see that SL govt does settle the genuine Tamil grievances as early as possible. But, please don't talk about "genocide" of the Tamils. It is ridiculous, and insulting to the true victims of genocide in places where it happened. Most of these refugees who are headed in the direction of Australia or Canada or any other western nation do so for pure economic reasons.

pam | 19 October 2009  

Question: Why are these Tamil refugees coming all the way to Australia? If their main concern was the safety of their lives, they would only have to travel 45km across the Palk Strait and into the state of Tamil Nadu, India which is home to more than 60 million of their brethren.

To top it all off, they specifically demand asylum in a western country. If their own safety was the priority they would have been more than happy to stay in Indonesia. It's clear that they are not genuine refugees.

Sam | 19 October 2009  

Thank you Michael for your outstanding report highlighting the blood drenched Sri-Lanka of innocent Tamils.

Please Australia, if Tamils want to migrate to your country which is one of the great democracies in the world for economic reasons, they wont come and claim refugee status, or come in as refugees., according to any culture going into any country on refugee status and I think that charging them with having economic benefits as a priority reason for migration demeanss people, and Tamils are NOT trying to do such.

Only an impunitive Government could have 300,000 odd Tamils caged in a concentration type camps,
in tents which can get easily washed away by strong monsoonal outpour, and cause water related deceases on their own, with overflowing sanitary conditions.

Please Australia the EU is contemplating of removing GPS+ as a trade sanction measure on SL, if Australia also imposes trade sanctions
on SL, it will cause the SL GOVERNMENT TO speedily RESETTLE THE INTERNAL DISPLACED and resolve the Tamil problem which will definitely reduce refugees coming into your country.

Michael thank you once again.

Jacob | 19 October 2009  

Undoubtedly there is truth in the replies of supporters of the Sri Lankan Government. Pam's detaied reply certainly seems convincing to someone like me who doesn't have independent knowledge. But as long as the Sri Lankan Government refuses to allow independent inspection of the situation of the Tamils in the country by UN representatives, NGOs and the press, they can't complain when outsiders believe the worst.

Gavan Breen | 19 October 2009  



nf | 19 October 2009  

Thanks for an open spirited opinion piece.

We are defined by how we respond to people in need. Clearly, there are strong opinions from Sri Lanka about what is going on.

I would be happier if our government was focusing on people in genuine need and why they have tried to flee here rather than getting opening the gate to some of our least generous instincts.

Let's look at the evidence and take in all who have genuine need.

RFI Smith | 19 October 2009  

Now LTTE has been military defeated in Sri Lanka, however, the LTTE especially the Diaspora, attempting to discredit the Sri Lanka government by highlighting the human factors as a mechanism of taking revenge of their defeat and using the billions of dollars earned by illegal means to send Tamils, most of them temporary living in the West, branding them as refugee to make the world aware that Sri Lanka is not a healthy place for Tamils thus pressuring Sri Lanka through West and their allies. This is the truth.

Laksh Jay | 19 October 2009  

In support of NF's comment following information is taken from Wikipedia.The link is: www.en.wikipedia/wiki/Human_rights_in_australia
"Most indigenous Australians live in either major cities, inner or outer regional areas of Australia, with 26.5% of Indigenous peoples living in remote or very remote areas. The health of indigenous Australians is significantly below that of the rest of the country for instance a 2006 study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare showed that 70% of the Aboriginal population, who number almost 500,000, die before the age of 65, compared with 20% of non-indigenous Australians. The average life expectancy for Aboriginal men is 59, compared with 77 for non-indigenous males with child mortality rates 3 times higher than the nation average.

The suicide rate amongst Aboriginal Australians is almost 3 times higher (at 4.2%) than the national average (1.5%).

The most common causes of death among the adult population are diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Indigenous people suffer from a rate of death from many diseases multiple times the rate of non-indigenous people according to a 2006 report by the Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission."

Y Bandara | 19 October 2009  

PAM I shall tell you why the genuine Tamil Refugees are not going to India/Tamil Nadu,
I can give you an example: Now the SL NAVY HAS SHOT AND Killed Tamil Nadu fishermen who were fishing in their own Waters, what did the Indian government do as a result? Nothing, as opposed to jumping up and down for some of their assets getting damaged by Sri-Lankan demonstrating outside the SL embassy, in India's equation few damages caused to the property in SL embassy in India New Delhi
is very much greater than the lives of Tamil Fisherman living and breathing in there own soil.

India is sending their Navy to train SL Navy, the current government of India is anti Tamil, all the attempts the Indian Government did for the Tamils in recent years
are just a ritual enactment for their western allies.

This is why Tamils prefer the civilised Western countries as opposed to neighbouring countries have a despicable track record of not treating their minorities with fairness and due respect, to add to it Indonesia is not an environmentally safe as well.

Australia, Tamils have genuine concerns, please listen to the pleas of the Tamil, they have no where else to go but to the civilised West, we are alone there are genuine people around us, so please help us.

Jacob | 19 October 2009  

These Tamils are seeking entry into Australia because others have obtained it on the basis of the same false claims. They see Australia as a 'soft touch'.The people have nothing to fear in Sri Lanka at least not unless they are supporters of or were active members of the Tamil Tigers.

CASSANDRA | 19 October 2009  

For those who still think that the LTTE were a bunch of boys out on the streets trying to win freedom for the Tamils, read the following website:

This article has been written by a Tamil and shows the cruelty of the LTTE and how they went about killing their own people too.
If the SL govt had stopped the war and allowed these devils to go free I for one would not have forgiven the govt.

There are no words to describe the brutality of the LTTE atrocities committed against the Sri Lankan civilians. I feel bad about the Tamils suffering in the IDP camps, but if there are any LTTE cadres hiding in these camps and it is the reason that the govt is keeping these people there, then I would have to think twice before criticizing the govt.

Pam | 19 October 2009  


It is very easy to put the blame to Sri Lanka, but the problem is your guessing game of having frosh blood in Sri Lanakn government. Has anyone truly examined the true identity of these illegal boat people. For me looks like they have been living in Malaysia or India for a long time and looking for a new settlement as they may have to go back to Sri Lanka once Sri Lankan army completes land mines and anti personal mines clearing process. I think it is very irresponsible to comment adversely about a country that has just got rid of 30+ years of terrorism and has given all their citizens some hope.


JG | 19 October 2009  

Australian governement plays a passive role in regional politics. Sri Lanka is a classic case when untold human catestrophy was unfolding, Australia was merely 'monitoring'. Why couldn't have the Government applied pressure on the SL government to treat these people with dignity and respect post-war? Why did the Australian government fail to advocate sanctions against Sri Lanka on their HR records? Flow of refugees is a result of lack of proactive approach towards a massive regional problem. If the world had seen Pinochet, Saddam, Dafur, Rwanda, then look over your shoulders at Sri Lanka. It is no different, if not worse. Only difference is that 'democratically-elected' government could unleash so much of terror on its own citizens - be it Sinhalese or Tamils. In 1972 and 1989, rural Sinhala youths became victims of a murderous government to quash their aspirations. 1,000's were murdered. Irrespective of the government of the day in Sri Lanka, it is a country that has the least tolerence towards minorities, culture of impunity, rule of jungle law, death squads, political corruption, thuggery, extrajudicial killings are rampant. All these happen behind a mask of calling itself a Buddhist country. This is not the spirit of Buddhism.

RAJAN | 19 October 2009  

Thank you Michael for expressing my feelings and many others exactly.

My big worry is the apparent silence of the Churches, although I must admit I have not been able to buy the Catholic Weekly, and wil be happy to 'eat my words.'

I would expect this atrocious action by Kevin Rudd to be all over the front page, and if not, would hope all concerned for justice in our country would be be extremely vocal in their disappointment, and disgust.

I distance myself completely from our Prime Minister's inhumane attitude, words and actions.

How dare he pay a poorer nation to house these refugees, when we have the greater economy and surplus land.

I believed all asylum seekers were entitled to compassion and encouragement as they tried to start a new life, free from fear and terror. The fact that Mr Rudd chooses to dismiss this fills me with more than apprehension for the future of our country

Bernie Introna | 19 October 2009  

Worse still Rudd is paying the Sri Lankan government to keep people locked up - the IOM for heavens sake. When are we going to stop paying those criminal gangsters?

It's a sickening disgrace to see two white millionaires telling a 9 year old child to get stuffed, again.

And under treaty obligations it is not people smuggling. Never has been and never will be.

Marilyn | 20 October 2009  

It's astonishing how much the spin machine of the non-Tamils sounds just like the spine machine of Israel.

Could it be the training of the army by Israel?

Marilyn | 20 October 2009  

Very well written Mr Mullins. Congratulations on a well written article. It is extremely sad that nations who could actually make this blood bath stop are indeed favoring the perpetrating governments. It is surprising that Mr Rudd of all people is callous and cold about this misery. Those people who say Tamils are living happily eve after in Colombo do not know the fear with which they live. India keeps the Tamil refugees in prison camp conditions. People who pontificate about conditions of Tamils should spend a day in an IDP camp.

Sri Sridharan | 20 October 2009  

Well done, As a Tamil from Sri Lanka (I hate to say I am from This criminal country) you and other Human rights groups are spot on. What I heard from my relatives are lot worst than you reported happening in that country. That is the reason they are not allowing any body to go over there. Not only Tamils even others from Sri Lanka wanted to get out of that country and claiming protection here. Please keep up with your good work.

Jey | 20 October 2009  

My dear Michael Mullins, you are great and you're 100% correct. Nobody asked sri lanka to stop its ethnic cleansing. There's no safe place in srilanka for tamils. Tamils are not a boat full of tourists, or people looking for a job. They are people who are running from genocide. The Sinhalese-backed Government is abducting Tamils, detained like animals in overcrowded detention centers, then torturing and killing them. There is now more evidence emerging from Sri Lanka that young Tamils are facing the danger of being extra judicially eliminated by the security forces and paramilitaries. so the people who wants to live long, migrating to safe places. Our canada geese also doing the same. we can't tell them to stay in the freezing snow. In all the media and political hysteria about the rising number of boat arrivals, there has been no mention of why people come in boats in the first place. God never give the land for the particular people. originally people can move anywhere they willing to but the jealous human demarcated this beautiful universe that is why the rocks underneath couldn't watch these silently and it sends warning by trembling without any break.

kana | 20 October 2009  

Great article and articulated many of the concerns that I have myself. Yet again I am ashamed to be Australian and I thought those times were gone with John Howard. But again we have a Prime Minister who seeks to profit politically from beating up on people who have already suffered a great deal. I see a number of posters from the Sinhalese have started a campaign to discredit the refugees, labelling them economic migrants and terrorists amongst other things (obvious because one little girl spoke English - can you follow the logic? I can't).

The fact is that a good many of these posters are in denial about the human rights abuses that continue unabated in Sri Lanka and that have been going on for decades. It is all too easy to label any critic a terrorist sympathiser, or to say mind your own business because you are from the West. The fact of the matter is the Sri Lankan Government has conducted a brutal campaign against not only minority Tamil people but also anyone else who shows the slightest dissent. Witness the journalists who have been intimidated or killed. If the Government is so clean then answer me this. Why will they not allow independent observers unhindered access to the internment camps in the North and East of the country and why do they restrict aid groups access? This more than anything said by any foreigner incriminates them.

As for going to Tamil Nadu, maybe they are reluctant to go to a country that has actively supported their Government's war against Tamil people. Next thing you will suggest they should have gone to China to seek asylum.

As for Pam's post, it gives an insight into the prejudice and racism experienced by Tamils in Sri Lanka. No mention that the British decided to administer an island that consisted of 3 separate kingdoms (one being majority Tamil), only that they propped up the Tamil minority who licked their boots. Sounds very much like the Tutsi minority and the Belgians in Rwanda doesn't it. Effectively Pam, your argument is that your Government is justified in its patently racist and brutal policies because the Tamils, like the Tutsis, received favourable treatment from a coloniser. What a load of bollocks.

Kevin07 | 20 October 2009  

Well written article which has captured the situation accurately.

Australia can play an active and constructive role on the boat people issue by pressuring Sri Lanka to release the 300,000 Tamil refugees from the military run internment camps and allow them to re-settle in their native villages. If Australia succeeds in preventing massive human rights abuses of Tamils in Sri Lanka which is well documented by AI, Human Rights Watch etc that will be the biggest and most effective way of discouraging the refugees fleeing from that terror island to other parts of the world. It should be noted that Tamils are fleeing in thousands whereever possible not just to Australia.

Thank you Mr Mullins for your excellent article.

Aru Raj | 20 October 2009  

Kevin07, you make sound points. It's abundantly clear how the Sinhalese' virulent propaganda works, and getting clearer how countries have been whims to it. It's changed in a lot of countries, but obviously you'd hope countries like say Australia and Canada showed more of a moral backbone and were more robust with Sri Lanka.

Great article.

Deejones | 20 October 2009  

Michael, thank you for your reminder to PM Rudd of what is happening behind the barbed wire fences of 350,000 who were chased out from their homes and interned without freedom of movement or any right to meet their relatives or MPs. It was the previous administration of US president Bush and his Western alliance including Australian government that aided and abetted Sri Lankan government to starve and bomb ethnic Tamil civilians in an area allocated for their safety from the war waged under the pretext of 'war on terror'. After the Tamil resistance was crushed Tamils are left at the mercy of extremist president and his brothers. They abduct, rape and torture the internees of the camps without any witness or any accountability. The international community must stop Sri Lanka's brutality on Tamils or try to rescue persecuted minority in the name of humanity.

Saro Freeman | 20 October 2009  

Why Tamils are coming to Australia not going to India?. Goods question. India betrayed the Tamils of Eelam. That is why. Tamils of Eelam coming to Australia or other western countries because they have humanity. Can some of you written comment in this column tell us why Singhalese people coming to Australia illegally and recently deported by Australian govt. Before you all advise to Tamil people, please advise to your own people.

Anton | 20 October 2009  

Excellent article. Rudd is running scared because the opposition is trying to make political capital out of the illegal boat arrivals. His stand is similar to Howard's. He will lose credibility as a good leader if he does not try to solve this problem at the source which is Sri Lanka and Afganistan. Afganistan is a hard case. But Rudd together with other western country leaders should be able bring pressure on Sri Lankan president to release the 280,000 Tamils who are forcibly kept by the Sri Lankan army as if they belong to another country. It is time the west should think of economic sanctions against Sri Lanka. I see lot of Sri Lankan government supports writing about the wrong done to aborigines. What that means is that you have done this aborigines so why can't we do it to Tamils. What an argument?

Nev | 20 October 2009  

Mr Mullins, Thank You for this article. I am a Tamil from Sri Lanka. I lived half my life in SL, and from my own experience and through relatives still living in SL, I know the suffering of Tamils. Many Tamil people are being arrested by the Sinhalese Police & Army and imprisoned for months/years. Young Tamil girls are sexually abused or raped. Many Tamils have been brutally tortured also. This has been happening for over 30 years. The war in SL is now over and there is no more 'Tamil Tigers' in SL. WHY??? is the UN and other countries like Australia still allowing Sinhala-Sri_Lanka to continue it's 'slow genocide' of Tamils? | 20 October 2009  

Me! Vijaya came from India to Sri Lanka in Ship 2000 years ago. We came in ship. Took the Tamils lands and married Tamil princess created a Indian hybrid race and pushed Tamils to North... Now we are happy, we made those Tamils to go out of the Island.. Tamils now looking to escape from us and settle in another island where they can live peacefully.. we never allow them to live happy wherever they go

Vijaya | 20 October 2009  

Tamils came all the way to Australia, why not India.... because India helped us to defeat Tamil rebels.. Tamil people now not believing India.. so they came to Australia.. 1.5 million Tamils now in North Of our country .. we decided to reduce it to one third... so two third may go to Australia, Canada or any where . we never mind.. we simply name them as LTTE.... so they cant come back to sri lanka.. thats we want...

Vijaya | 20 October 2009  

Michael seems to suggest that these people are innocent refugees. Like many western journalists he too appears to have been mislead by sorry tales of 'genocide', 'torture' etc. If they are true refugees how are they able to pay US $4 million to people smugglers? Their spokesperson spoke such perfect english with a north american accent it is extremely unlikely he was living in a deprived area of Srilanka. Since the defeat of LTTE tigers life has changed dramatically for the civilian population after 30 years, in that there is peace, no suicide bombers, no explosions and in short terror has come to an end. It is obvious to everyone that Tigers were the cause of all troubles. Tamil diaspora overseas are actively engaged in slinging mud at the Srilankan govt. Resettlement of IDP's is taking much longer than anticipated because of difficulties in identifying the terrorist elements hiding among the IDP's. Acts commited by the LTTE tigers are same as what Al-Queda are doing in Afghanistan, Taliban in Pakistan, and Basque separatists in Spain. While majority of journalists are critical of these groups, for some hidden reason, they seem to sympathise with Tamil tigers.

sarath samarasinhge | 20 October 2009  

Can this journalist say why so many Africans set out in boats to find wealth in Europe?

Tamils and all others from poor countries will flee poverty at any cost. Tamils tell exaggerated lies and live these lies. If they were fleeing because they were Tamils, they would flee to Tamil Nadu, not to western countries. Some Tamils have made a hell hole out of Sri Lanka and we have an oppressive govt as a result of this Tamil problem. They have been a curse to all Sri Lankans.

All that said, most Tamils are honest hardworking people, Australia should take them in and review their asylum applications in a respectfull manner, and not make them into some kind of criminals. The Sri Lankan govt is pathetic - they don't say anything to these people who are their own people. Can't understand why they just ignore the plight of these people in foreign countries getting treated like animals.....

A Sri Lankan Tamil

Suren | 20 October 2009  

the article is good. the leading countries must do economic sanctions to sri lanka. some countries must take out embassies from sri lanka. the all the world leaders must say to RAJAPAKSA to stop now and to allow the tamils in the camp immediatly to their homes or to their relatives. the leaders must take immediat action if RAJAPAKSA is not listning to them. TALKING IS NOTHING, ACTION IS THE BEST WAY.

claude wignaraj | 21 October 2009  

What we learned for the year of 2009?
Sri Lanka found two new friends (Iran & China). I don't think it is good for the health of West. Sri Lanka was kissing the west just to eliminate LTTE and to kill about 30,000 innocent Tamils in the name of fighting against terrorism. Bottom line for Sri Lankan democracy is, don't be born as Tamil if you are, you would end up in IDP camps or will be booted out of the country.

Mike | 21 October 2009  

a few must-read articles for all of us...

25-10-2009 - The Catholic Leader - Call for a fair go


21-10-2009 - Sunshine Coast Daily - Boat people not the issue - Bill Hoffman


16-10-2009 - FPIF - Legacy of Abuse in Sri Lanka - by Anna Neistat, Human Rights Watch


17-10-2009 - The Daily Telegraph - Rudd needs to talk tough to Sri Lanka - by Laurie Oakes,27574,26221927-5007146,00.html


16-10-2009 - The Age - National Times - The Tamils are fleeing because no one will ease their plight - by Bruce Haigh


08-10-2009 - TamilNet - Tamils facing “cultural annihaliation” by SL Government: Australian Senator | 21 October 2009  

Excellent title Stop Sri Lanka, Not its Refugees. I am Tamil, In my culture we have one fruit language, which is "aeithavan irukka ampai novaan aen?" - we have to look at the controller not the others -
Thanks Michael Mullins brought the truth of Sri lankan situation to the world.. there is no words... more 1000s Tamils gonna escape from the Sri Lanka(Obvious). There is no choice to stop them. Because International governments, when they fought for there freedom, they banned them and distroyed them. Now this is a time time to save those people, Otherwise they dont wanna talk human rights in anywhere.

Jayanthan Para | 21 October 2009  

Sri Lankan gov't.expelled UNICEF spokesperson James Elder,and denied entry to media into the IDP camps. Very few international NGOs are allowed to some show-piece idp camps.Forcibly detained people are behind the barb wire fence for so long. It has a moral implication for civilized democracies.

Batholoameus | 21 October 2009  

Michael, thank you for writing this.
Tamils have been ''penned' in Northeast Sri Lanka by this regime. It's very difficult for them to get to the rest of the country. Aid agencies have been restricted in their work in that region for decades -it's much worse in this regime.

ICRC was forced to close down its offices in the East. Thousands of abduction-murders of Tamils by 'white van' in the highly militarised Northast and Colombo go uninvestigated. Thousands of Tamils are languishing in prisons after arrests without charges. Recommendations in reports by UN, AI, HRW, ICJ, IBA, ICG and others have been ignored for decades by Sri Lanka. ICG in the last few years contain recommendations to the international community. Fact-finding missions by religious bodies find people living in fear in Northeast and begging the visiting clergy to tell the world about them.

Will Australia follow the recommendations by the ICG? Will Australia prod Sri Lanka to pay attention to international norms on human rights? Will Australia prod the rest of the international community to look at the recommendations of ICG? Will Australia take up the matter at the UN? It should try to practise R2P in its own way.

Davidson Panabokke | 22 October 2009  

Thank your for your voice.

siva | 22 October 2009  

Congratulations on your article. I note that many, who have made comments, are making judgements about who these asylum seekers are. Surely the best thing to do is to have Australian immigration officers interview them immediately and assess their refugee status. I am opposed to Australia seeking an 'Indonesian Solution' to asylum seekers.

Maureen | 23 October 2009  

These economic migrants have been living in Indonesia for 5 years they are not refugees. Then they say if not Australia please send us to néw Zealand Norway, Canada or Switzerland ... basically a shopping list of the most desirable spots to live on the planet. If they are economic migrants (which they clearly are) they need to go through the same channels as the 140,000 Indian students the English retirees and the American businessmen that migrate here each year.

Jafna bharti | 01 November 2009  

what seems to be neglected in all this Michael is that we are fighting fires on so many fronts already in Australia. In case no-one's noticed, Australia is struggling with it's own issues - over stressed health services, cost of living outpacing wages, house prices beyond the majority of single income earners and dare I say WATER!!

And this is simply a side-effect of accommodating a population that has grown too large - we are already populated beyond the carrying capacity of this country. And while we are spending millions trying to accomodate people who are more demanding than they are gracious, we neglect much needed things at home. To what extent are you prepared to donate the futures of our children to others who are incapable of appreciating the sacrifice? What use is your Christianity if you haven't made a dent in the issues at home? Instead, you pick easy targets to fire off a sadly misplaced agenda.

Many commentators cite the failures of the government to treat "asylum seekers" fairly, but don't seem to be able to see the relationship between accommodating 100s of thousands of new people a year and the attrition of health services and infrastructure.

Matt Munroe | 14 November 2009  

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