Witness reveals asylum seeker 'suicide attempts' on high seas
January 20, 2014
Indonesia correspondent for Fairfax Media
Two asylum seekers jumped off their boat into the water as the Australian navy was escorting them back to Indonesia in December, in what one fellow passenger said was a suicide attempt.
Sailors from the accompanying ships pulled them from the water and put them back on board, asylum seeker Rahman Ali said.
The news comes as Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa commented for the first time about Australian vessels straying into Indonesian territorial waters, saying the Abbott government should have listened to his strong advice over a number of years to abandon the turn-back policy.
''An apology [by Australia] would not have have been necessary if they had followed our initial suggestion,'' Dr Natalegawa said. Advertisement
Asylum seeker Rahman Ali has told Fairfax Media he was on a small wooden boat carrying 42 people that reached Christmas Island on December 23.
''I could see [Christmas Island] very near, then the navy came and stopped our boat,'' Mr Ali said. ''After that, the fuel was finished.''
An Australian mechanic came out with fuel and checked the engine of the fishing boat to make sure it was still operational. Then, the day after their arrival, the navy began to escort the boat away. Two navy ships sailed in escort.
''After [a while], two guys wanted to do the suicide; they jumped into the ocean. The navy sent a speedboat, and put them in the boat again,'' Mr Ali said. ''After this, on the second day, they lied; they said we can bring you to Darwin.''
For three days the formation of vessels sailed, with the asylum seekers believing they were going to Darwin. About 4am on December 27, when most were asleep, the Australians took the fuel containers and left. The passengers realised they were close to southern Java and set out towards land.
However, Mr Ali said, the engine stopped before they had made it to the beach, and they had to swim for about an hour to get to shore.
There have been at least five boats, carrying 215 people, turned back from Australia to Indonesia since December 13. One group last Wednesday was returned on a disposable Australian lifeboat.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has said there have been no boat arrivals in Australia since December 19.
In his response, Dr Natalegawa echoed the words of Indonesia's security ministry spokesman on Friday, saying: ''We deplore this very serious breach of Indonesia's territory.''
He also hinted Indonesia would not stand by and allow Australian vessels into the country, saying: ''We obviously at the same time reserve our right to protect our territorial integrity.''
Indonesia is beefing up its military presence in its southern waters with a navy frigate.
Back to sievx.com