March 5, 2011
A large of group of Tamil asylum seekers intercepted in 2009 by Indonesian authorities following a call from Kevin Rudd have been released after gaining refugee status.
At least 10 of the group who were aboard a boat carrying 254 asylum seekers on their way to Australia were released from detention on Friday with more to be let go in the coming weeks.
250 Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seekers headed for Australia arrive on their boat in Merak, Indonesia. Photo: Irwin Fedriansyah - courtesy: Sydney Morning Herald
The large group of asylum seekers have been in the Tanjung Pinang Detention Centre on the island of Bintan since October 2009.
The Indonesian navy intercepted their boat - known as the Jaya Lestari 5 - on October 11, 2009 after then-Prime Minister Rudd personally asked Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to prevent it reaching Australian waters.
However, after being towed to the port of Merak, in West Java, those aboard refused to leave, prompting a six months standoff.
Speaking from the detention centre on Friday, one of the asylum seekers, who expects to be released within the next week, said he was ecstatic that his ordeal would soon be over.
Nimal Nimalaharan said: "Most of the group had been granted refugee status". ~ courtesy: Sydney Morning Herald ~