Indonesia has declared it will refuse to take back
asylum welfare seekers rescued by Australian ships unless there is a threat to their lives, as a standoff between the countries continued off Java today.
SMH (h/t bonampak) Australia demands that Indonesia accept 63 asylum seekers plucked from a boat has brought the blunt refusal by Jakarta. As an Australian boat carrying the asylum seekers inched closer to Indonesia late on Friday, the impasse was further damaging relations already strained by revelations of widespread spying from the Australian embassy in Jakarta.
The incident began when the Australian Rescue Co-ordination Centre notified Indonesia of a distress call from a boat 57 nautical miles south of Indonesia about 9.30am on Thursday.
The boat reported engine trouble but according to the Indonesian search and rescue agency Basarnas, when navy vessel HMAS Ballarat arrived about three hours later, the crew found the engine was working. The Australian vessel sailed away. “After they left, the engine apparently really was broken,” said Basarnas deputy officer in charge, Adi Fachroni Azis.
Australian customs ship Ocean Protector then joined the vessel to ensure its safety and sailed alongside it towards Indonesia, as it asked Indonesia to collect the asylum seekers. In the early hours of the morning, the boat’s 63 passengers were shifted onto the Australian ship.
It is unclear whether they had sabotaged the boat’s engine after the Ballarat left them, but if they did, it would highlight the risk of any Australian policy of trying to turn seaworthy boats back to Indonesia.
Indonesia’s Co-ordinating Minister for Legal,Political and Security Affairs, Djoko Suyanto, rammed home his country’s refusal to take the asylum seekers in a text message to the ABC late on Friday.
”The Indonesian government never agreed to such wishes or policies by Australia,” he said. ”We have expressed this point of view since the Rudd government and there are no changes in our policy in relation to asylum seekers who want to go to Australia in the current Tony Abbott government.
Australia already has its own detention centres in Nauru and PNG so they should send these asylum seekers [there], not to Indonesia.”
At least two boatloads of asylum seekers have been returned to Indonesia after being rescued by Australian ships since the election of the Abbott government. But in both cases the boats were sinking (no doubt intentionally). In this case, Indonesia maintains there was no danger to life.