Another turned back boat lands in Indonesia
February 25, 2014
Indonesia correspondent for Fairfax Media SMH
Australia has returned its seventh boatload of asylum seekers to Indonesia, deploying another orange lifeboat to the southern coast of Java with 26 people aboard.
Local media reports from Kebumen in Central Java said the people were stranded on a beach in the area at around 1pm local time (5pm AEDT) on Monday after climbing out of an Operation Sovereign Borders "unsinkable" orange life boat. It's the third of the $46,000 lifeboats to be sent with a group of asylum seekers back to Indonesia since mid-January. An empty lifeboat that carried asylum seekers back to Indonesia from Australia.
The group of asylum seekers was picked up more than two hours after they landed by a local search and rescue crew, but one of the three Indonesian crew had already escaped. Advertisement
Police said the lifeboat had either run aground on a reef some way out to sea, or run out of fuel, and some of the asylum seekers were swimming for shore when they were found and helped by local people.
The asylum seekers were from Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirates, according to reports, and were taken on Monday night to the nearby town of Cilacap.
One of the men was ill and had been admitted to hospital, officers said, after having not eaten for four days.
An article on the Kebumen police station website posted late on Tuesday said the asylum seekers had spent three days and nights on the sea before entering Australian waters, where they were intercepted by an Australian warship.
The Australians took the asylum seekers on board, burned their wooden fishing vessel and brought the people back towards Indonesia.
When they were close enough, they were put on the big orange lifeboat, the police article says.
The police article said two of the three Indonesian crew had been captured and were detained in the police office.
The crew said they were promised 30 million rupiah ($A3000) if the asylum seekers had made it to Australia. However, they complained that they had only so far received 10 million rupiah ($A1000).
The Indonesian navy planned to impound the lifeboat, local officials are quoted as saying.
This is the third of the Operation Sovereign Borders unsinkable orange lifeboats to be returned to Indonesia after the first was deployed on January 15.
Indonesia's Foreign Minister, Marty Natalegawa, has repeatedly attacked the Abbott government's policy of boat "turn-backs", warning the practice would damage relations between the two countries.
However, since relations are already at a very low ebb, it appears the Australian government has decided to take advantage of the situation to push the policy very strongly.
In early February, following the sixth confirmed tow-back since the Coalition's policy was enacted in December, Dr Natalegawa said: ''This kind of policy of transferring people from one boat to another and then directing them back to Indonesia is not really helpful.''
Indonesia's security affairs minister, Djoko Suyanto, has also told Fairfax Media that Australia ''must understand the meaning of the sovereignty of the republic of Indonesia, which the Australian navy breached in the way it did".
When asked about the policy's deleterious effect on the Australia-Indonesia relationship, neither Prime Minister Tony Abbott nor Immigration Minister Scott Morrison have been willing to concede to Indonesia’s concerns.
Mr Abbott has insisted that Australia is entitled to protect its borders and would continue to do so, irrespective of Indonesian concerns over territorial incursions.
''Stopping the boats is a matter of sovereignty and President Yudhoyono of all people ought to understand . . . just how seriously countries take their sovereignty," Mr Abbott said, during the World Economic Forum in Davos in late January.
In less than three months, the Abbott government has turned back, towed back, or sent back to Indonesia in lifeboats more boats than John Howard managed in more than two years between October 2001 and November 2003.
A spokesperson from Immigration Minister Scott Morrison's office said: ''In accordance with the Operation Sovereign Borders Joint Agency Task Force policy regarding public release of information on operational matters, the government has no further response on the issues raised.''
Former Labor immigration minister Tony Burke on Tuesday criticised the government’s continued secrecy.
''We get our information it seems from the Indonesian media on all of this,'' he told reporters in Canberra.
Australia's northern neighbour was central to tackling people smuggling, Mr Burke said.
''If anyone thinks that you can deal with this issue without a co-operative relationship with Indonesia - Indonesia's quite capable of proving that argument wrong,'' he said.
Back to sievx.com