NZ should assist boat people fleeing Sri Lanka

tamil protest4
Images of Tamil refugees from placards displayed at a protest outside the NZ Parliament

In 2001 the Clark Government stepped in and gave

a helping hand

to some people in pretty dire circumstances when we accepted a number of asylum seekers fleeing Afghanistan.

Boat people fleeing the civil war raging between the Northern Alliance and the Taliban had been rescued off the coast of Australia by a Norwegian Freighter the Tampa

The Tampa had then been denied entry to Australia by John Howard’s Government.

A similar situation is playing out

across the Tasman right now

but this time it involves Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seekers fleeing from the repression in their home country in the aftermath of a civil war. Some of them are on an Australian customs ship, the Oceanic Viking, anchored off Indonesia and desperate to come to Australia.

Hundreds of thousands of Tamil’s have been displaced in the fighting and are now living in hastily put together refugee camps. These camps have been largely shut off from the outside world although there has been some limited

news media access


I asked questions of

our own Government regarding

the conditions in these camps a few months ago.

It is good that the New Zealand Government had made some criticisms about the Sri Lankan clampdown on the Tamils. But now we have the chance to do something more – to give shelter to some of the boat people coming to Australia. After all the proper checks of course.

Taking in Afghans  from the Tampa 2001 boosted our reputation among fair-minded Australians. And the

“Tampa boys”

, as they are affectionately known,

have flourished here


We can again show our Aussie cousins what a caring people we are by following the lead of our Government back in 2001.