Indonesia concerned over Australian payment of migrant boat

Indonesia worries about Australian payment for migrant boat’s crew in exchange for leaving country

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Indonesia voiced concerns on Thursday over the claims that Australia paid crew of the migrant boats carrying 65 immigrants to come back to Indonesia after the boat were intercepted en route to New Zealand by the Australian navy.

Indonesian police arrested five crew members and the captain of the boat who allegedly confessed that Australian authorities paid $5,000 each of them after Australian navy headed off the boat on 20 May.

Police said there were 65 migrants from Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka in the boat including children and a pregnant woman.  

Indonesian government concerned about that, this kind of attempts, such payments, may encourage people smuggling in the region, Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said.

The attempt came as South Asian countries are tackling with the migrant crisis in the region. Two migrant groups mostly desire to land in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia; one of them is Rohingya Muslims who are forced to flee Myanmar due to persecution from the Buddhist nationalists and the other one is Bangladeshis who are looking for a better life in abroad.   

Australia does not accept any migrant who tries to enter its territory with the boats as a country policy and many times forces them to turn back to their countries. Most of the migrants who escape from poverty or oppression take a risk and decide this dangerous journey on Indonesia to arrive Australia.

Australian police questioned the detained crew and reached the information that an Australian navy officer who spoke Indonesian came and offered money in exchange for their return to Indonesian territory as the vessel was boarded off Christmas Island in Australian waters which is 1,090 kilometres (675 miles) southwest of Rote island in central Indonesia.   

Enough food and fuel also were given along with two boats to return to Indonesia, according to a crew member.

The migrants arrived Indonesian ashore and stranded in there on May 31. Indonesian officials accommodated them in a immigration detention centre in the provincial  capital Kupang on Tuesday, according to a local police chief on Route.

"I saw the money and even counted it together with the crew during interrogation," said the officer, adding that “but I don't want to speculate before the investigation is complete."

Australia's Immigration Minister Peter Dutton announced that there is no comment currently on operational matters.

"At the appropriate time, we'll make comments about turn-backs where we've done it, where it's been safe to do so," he told radio station 2GB.


TRTWorld and agencies