Australia sends asylum seekers back to Indonesia

Indonesian crewmen Isai Rano (left with blue towel) and Lajimu (right) from Kupang at the East Nusa Tenggara water police office. Photo: Joy Christian Three Bangadeshi nationals wait at the East Nusa Tenggara water police office after being returned to Indonesia.3 Bangladeshi2 indonesian crew with blue towels. Isai rano (brown shirt) lajimu (grey shirt) both from kupang. Photo: Joy Christian
Nanjing Night Net

People smuggler cash scandalBoat turn-back payment to people smugglers the first of its kind

Jakarta:  Six Bangladeshis were returned to Indonesia on Indonesian fishermen’s boats after being intercepted by the Australian Border Force, according to an Indonesian police officer.

East Nusa Tenggara water police chief Teddy J.S. Marbun told Fairfax Media the six Bangladeshi “suspected illegal immigrants” left Kupang with two Indonesians on March  3. “They made it to Australian (waters) but their boat sunk,” he said. “The eight people then were rescued by an Australian customs ship for three days.”

Mr Teddy said the men were then transferred onto nearby Indonesian fishing boats that were fishing near Ashmore Reef. “They can’t understand each other’s language, so they just used sign language,” Mr Teddy said. “The fisherman were given fuel and supplies, they know if you breach Australian waters, they will turn you back. So they took the eight people back.”

Australian Border Force Commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg tweeted that Australian Border Force maritime patrol had assisted an Indonesian vessel in distress.

“The vessel was NOT scuttled – was unseaworthy and sank. Pax (passengers) assisted & okay,” he tweeted. The boat’s skipper, Isai Rano, 34, said he had been offered 92 million rupiah (about $AUD9000) to take the six Bangladeshis to Australia.

“We used 35million rupiah to buy a boat. We kept a fee of 10million and gave 47million to our family.”

Mr Isai said they left for Australia on the morning of March 3. “After sailing for three days, our boat sank, the Australian navy saved us. We were interrogated aboard the navy ship. When they found Indonesian fishing boats, we were transferred onto them on monday. We were given rice and life jackets and the fishermen were told to take us back to Kupang.”

The incident comes two weeks before the main regional forum to combat people smuggling is held in Bali. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will attend the Bali process, which is co-chaired by Indonesia and Australia.

Australia’s boat push-back policy is a sore point in the Indonesia-Australia relationship. Indonesia considers the policy an affront to its sovereignty and an example of one country pushing its responsibility onto another.

Mr Teddy said two days into the journey back to Indonesia some of the fishermen’s boats had engine problems. “That was when the water police found them. We evacuated them to the water police post.”

Mr Teddy said the skipper, Mr Isai, and the second Indonesian crew member were being interviewed by police. He said the six Bangladeshis were suspected illegal immigrants and were now being detained at an immigration detention centre in Kupang.

A spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said: “The government doesn’t comment on operational matters.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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