Lifeboat carrying asylum seekers lands on Indonesian coast
By Indonesia correspondent George Roberts
7 February 2014
Asylum seekers discovered on Wednesday night on the Indonesian coast say they were nearly ready to disembark at Christmas Island when the Australian Navy sent them back.
The ABC has obtained exclusive footage of an orange lifeboat which landed on Java's south coast on Wednesday night.
The Indonesian navy says there were 34 people on board the lifeboat, which had recently been purchased by the Australian Navy.
Local police have described the vessel as alien-looking.
ABC News has sought comment from Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, but he is on a diplomatic tour abroad.
A spokeswoman for the Minister said: "In line with the policy of not discussing what happens at sea, the Government has no response on the issues raised."
Indonesia's foreign minister takes swipe at Australian policy
Indonesia's foreign minister Marty Natalegawa has again expressed concern over the boat turn-backs policy.
"This kind of policy of transferring people from one boat to another and then directing them back to Indonesia is not really helpful," he said.
Indonesia's navy held a meeting this week to discuss the boat turn-backs and has decided to boost personnel numbers on Java's southern coast.
Asylum seekers say they were nearly at Christmas Island
The asylum seekers say they made it close to Christmas Island when the Australian Navy intercepted them.
All but two were transferred onto the lifeboat and sent back to Indonesia, where it beached on Wednesday evening.
Passengers say two people resisted the Navy's attempt to put them on the lifeboat, so they were not returned to Indonesia.
Earlier this week Mr Morrison told an Australian newspaper that two asylum seekers were transferred for medical treatment, one of them for a heart condition.
It is not clear if they are the same two people who were not sent back on this boat.
Youngest person on lifeboat was 18 months old, sources say
Indonesian sources have told the ABC those on board came from Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.
The youngest aboard was 18 months old.
They also said the asylum seekers were fed and medically treated by Australian authorities, but claimed to have run out of food 48 hours before landing in Java.
Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young says it is concerning that children were on board the lifeboat.
"I'm very concerned that there are reports that there were children as young as 18 months old, toddlers on board this boat," she said.
"It is never safe to turn back a boat, push a boat back to the high seas with children that young on board."
Topics: federal-government, navy, immigration, community-and-society, foreign-affairs, indonesia, australia
First posted Thu 6 Feb 2014, 7:53pm AEDT
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