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Page last updated at 08:30 GMT, Monday, 19 April 2010 09:30 UK

Sri Lanka migrant stand-off in Indonesia port ends

By Karishma Vaswani
BBC News, Jakarta

The Sri Lankan asylum seekers' boat in Merak on 14 April 2010
The group have remained in Merak port for more than six months

Sri Lankan migrants who have been stuck on a boat off the coast of Indonesia have finally left the port of Merak.

After a six-month-long stand-off, they are now in buses on their way to a detention centre in Indonesia.

The Sri Lankans had been refusing to get off their boat until they were guaranteed safe passage to Australia to live there.

The resolution brings an end to a crisis that has plagued both the Indonesian and Australian governments.

Indonesia's Foreign Ministry spokesman told the BBC that the majority of the 200 Tamil Sri Lankan refugees were now in buses headed for Jakarta's airport, to be relocated to other parts of the country.

Teuku Faizasya said the Sri Lankans had agreed to cooperate after lengthy negotiations.

Indonesia had made no promises to the refugees, he added, only assuring them that once they were in a detention centre, the proper immigration procedures would be carried out to determine who amongst them had refugee status.

The biggest obstacle to a resolution in this crisis was that the Sri Lankan refugees had refused to get off their boat until they were promised a home in Australia.

That was their original destination, when they set sail on their long and treacherous journey six months ago.

They say they are fleeing persecution in Sri Lanka and face discrimination there because they are Tamil. They have refused to be relocated to their homeland.

It is not clear whether Australia has agreed to take the Sri Lankan refugees.

Recently, the Australian government said it would temporarily stop processing asylum claims from Sri Lanka and Afghanistan because of the number of people from those two nations arriving in the country by boat.



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