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Tamil women, children behind bars in Indonesia

Ten Sri Lankan women and children who came off the Oceanic Viking yesterday say they are locked up and unable to leave an Australian-funded detention centre in Indonesia.


Behind bars: the women say they are sad and want to go to Australia. (Reuters: Vivek Prakash)

mp3 audio-ABC

Holding their young children up to the bars of the facility called a temporary holding room, the women say they are unable to come and go as they please, contradicting claims made by Australian officials.

The Federal Government said there would be a special arrangement for the women and children - that they would not be housed in the detention centre but in a facility nearby.

But the ABC's Indonesia correspondent, Geoff Thompson, says the nearby facility - which has also been referred to as a quarantine area - is no better than the detention centre itself.

Thompson is in Tanjung Pinang and says the women have told him they are sad and want to go to Australia.

"They are outside the wire in the sense that there is this detention centre, built with Australian help, it's a big building right next to it, obviously part of the same structure, but technically with no razor wire around it," he said.

"There is this holding cell where the women and children are but the same bars are on the windows and I don't believe that the conditions inside are any more luxurious than they are inside the main detention centre."

The Federal Government says the accommodation of the asylum seekers is a matter for Indonesian authorities.

But Thompson says Indonesia's patience with Australia is running out.

"We heard very clearly last night from Dr Sujatmiko - the chief negotiator here - that this is the first time and the last time something like this has happened, and frankly I think Indonesia thinks that these people are now in detention," he said.

"That's where they will be until they say Australia honours its promise to get them out of Indonesia within a month or no longer than three months."

On average, asylum seekers remain in detention in Indonesia for 52 weeks, but Thompson says he has met some who have spent nearly 10 years behind bars.

"I've also met asylum seekers who've spent five or six years and they know people who've been here for nine years before they resettled," he said.

The Indonesian government expects the Oceanic Viking asylum seekers to be out of Indonesia within four to 12 weeks, based on promises made by the Australian Government.

"[The asylum seekers] are very glad to disembark from the vessel, hoping that Australia keep the promise to come to Australia," Dr Sujatmiko said.

"This is their expectation and the Indonesian government expectation.

"[They will go to] Australia or other countries. We'll come back to Australia to keep the promise. After the deadline, out from Indonesia."

But Immigration Minister Chris Evans says there is no guarantee the asylum seekers will come to Australia and it will be up to the UNHCR to decide how many of the group do come. [COURTESY:]

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