Monday December 27 2004 14:00pm WST
For Immediate Release
"Foreign Aid for inhabitants of the devastated regions in several countries, including the Tamil region in Sri Lanka, can start at home, in the Baxter detention centre", refugee lobby group Project SafeCom said today.
"Tens of thousands of Sri Lankans in the Tamil region of that country have been left homeless and their communities have been devastated as a result of yesterday's earthquake and its associated tsunamis."
"In Sri Lanka proper the toll is even higher, and TV New Zealand reports that the "Sri Lankan government declared a national disaster and made its own appeal for aid following the tsunami, which has killed more than 3,500 Sri Lankans and displaced around 750,000 more."
"The about fifteen Sri Lankans in the Baxter detention centre have no home to go to, if ever they did, and the devastations of the disaster provides an opportunity for the Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone to provide relief to the Sri Lankans in Baxter, in addition to extend some generosity to the hundreds of Sri Lankan asylum seekers, many of them "living in Australia without the right to work, Medicare or government benefits", as Green Left Weekly recently reported."
"The most appropriate gesture would now be to grant all Sri Lankans permanent residency under Australia's humanitarian program. The current circumstances certainly would make such an act desirable, and it would be supported by all Australians."
The General Secretary of the Victorian Tamil Cultural Association, Nagamuthu Ramalingam Wickiramasingham, recently reported that there are about 525 Sri Lankans in the Australian community, and that no known moves were underway by the immigration minister to take any other action than to try to get them deported.
For more information:
Jack H Smit
[phone number posted]
 Sri Lankan asylum seekers face deportation (GLW, Oct 6 2004):