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Tamil asylum seeker to give birth on crowded ship – theage

[MISC, Monday, 25 January 2010 12:59 No Comment]

A HEAVILY pregnant asylum seeker says she is prepared to have her baby on board the crowded vessel where about 250 Sri Lankans have been engaged in a stand-off with authorities at the Indonesian port of Merak.

After more than month living in the jungles of Malaysia waiting for a boat, and then more than three months in the squalid conditions at port in Merak, Piramila Vijeratnan yesterday remained defiant.

”I’m very worried about the baby being born on the boat but I don’t want it to be born in Indonesia,” she said. ”I don’t want to live in detention. I want freedom for my children.”

Ms Vijeratnan, who is eight months pregnant and travelling with her husband and one-year-old toddler, said she was unaware she was carrying a child until after she had contacted a people-smuggler to take her to Australia.

She fled Sri Lanka after her younger brother and older sister were killed and her husband ran into ”problems” she was too fearful to disclose.

Along with her fellow ethnic Tamils, she is refusing to disembark at Merak after their rickety vessel was towed there by the Indonesian Navy on its way to Australia after the personal intervention of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

A letter from Ms Vijeratnan to Mr Rudd’s wife, Therese Rein, pleading for her help in her capacity as a UNICEF ambassador has not been answered almost two months after it was sent.

One Tamil on the boat has died and another may require a leg to be amputated. Almost all those on board have suffered from severe diarrhoea and other ailments due to the unsanitary conditions.

Indonesian authorities have refused to forcibly remove the asylum seekers so far and want Australia to play a more constructive role in resolving the stand-off.

[Full Coverage]

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