500 migrants stranded on Indonesian islands
30 July 2001

JAKARTA, July 29: Nearly 500 migrants heading for Australia from the Middle East and Asia were stranded on three Indonesian islands after heavy seas forced their boats ashore, a newspaper said on Sunday.

The marooned included 314 people from Pakistan and Afghanistan, who were stranded in Lempasing, on the southern tip of Sumatra island, since Saturday, the Kompas daily said.

The commander of the Telukratai navy base quoted the travellers as saying their captain deserted them not long after they had left Jakarta. He said the boat was carrying false documents and the foreigners were all being held at the base.

Another boat carrying 139 Afghans who were trying to enter Australia illegally was stranded on the Indonesian island of Sumba late on Thursday following a heavy storm, Kompas said.

The boat, which had left the Indonesian port of Bima, on Sumbawa island, was carrying 110 men, two women and 27 children when the storm hit, Kompas said.

A police official was quoted by Kompas as saying that the group of Afghans had chartered the boat in Bima to take them to Northern Australia for 20 million rupiah (2,000 dollars).

The Afghans told police that they had entered Indonesia about a year ago and had stayed most of the time in Probolinggo, in East Java, before gradually making their way to Bima.-AFP

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