MERAK, Indonesia: They are promised a bright future awaits, that the gods will take care of them, but the 31 Tamil children among the 255 asylum seekers moored in Merak are deeply traumatised and confused.While some of the adults on board say they will die rather than disembark, many of the children just want to get off the wooden cargo ship, as the one toilet on board emits a stink and their parents grow more disoriented in the baking heat, refusing to eat or drink.”My son says: ‘Mama, Mama. I don’t want this. Why are you taking me? Why am I on this boat?’ It is very difficult for them to understand,” says Varshini, a mother of two from Jaffna who says she had no choice but to leave Sri Lanka after her husband was abducted.”I say: ‘Please don’t worry;the gods, God, will save us. Please wait. There will be good food and drinks, good futures and good study.”’One moment sobbing, the next proclaiming coolly her willingness to stay on board the boat ”forever” while waiting for a country other than Indonesia to take them, Varshini is erratic and at times irrational.Indonesia is not a safe place, she says, ”because of big problems with tsunamis”.Marthavan, her seven-year-old son, and Amirtha, her four-year-old daughter, spend most of their time below decks on the crowded 30-metre boat. They are taking food and water, as are some of the breastfeeding mothers and a pregnant woman.Coming up with the adults briefly, Marthavan and Amirtha stare and smile shyly, clasping their hands together in the Hindu greeting.Below, the 31 children are out of the stifling heat but there is no place to play. And there is no hope of reaching Australia any time soon, despite the desperate actions of their parents. Nine-year old Brindha, the girl who tearfully pleaded for asylum this week, told how her family was fleeing death threats and that her father was a builder.Varshini admits: ”There are lots of problem with the children. It’s very difficult. We can’t manage all of them. Some are very, very thin and we can’t manage this problem.” She said her children believed they would see their father soon. She has yet to tell them that he was taken away by ”criminals” – Sinhalese security forces – while they were asleep 18 months ago.Tamils often say that members of the dominant Sinhalese ethnic group that triumphed in the recent Sri Lankan civil war extort money. In Varshini’s case, she says ”the men always coming to my house” forced her to flee, spending the family’s savings, about $US20,000, to arrange a passage to Australia with an ”agent”.
Nanjing Night Net

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