Australia ig­nores In­done­sia over boat pay­ment claim

The China Post - - BUSINESS -

Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter Tony Ab­bott re­fused again Sun­day to deny al­le­ga­tions an of­fi­cial paid thou­sands of Aus­tralian dol­lars to turn back a boat­load of asy­lum- seek­ers, de­spite calls from In­done­sia for an­swers.

The claims — that the cap­tain and five crew of the boat were each paid US$5,000 by an Aus­tralian im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cial to turn back to In­done­sia — were made to In­done­sian po­lice on Rote is­land in the coun­try’s east.

The row risks dam­ag­ing al­ready strained re­la­tions. Australia’s am­bas­sador to In­done­sia Paul Grig­son re­sumed his post last week af­ter be­ing re­called over the April ex­e­cu­tion of two Aus­tralians for drug- smug­gling.

Ab­bott said the key mes­sage for In­done­sia as well as Aus­tralian vot­ers was that his gov­ern­ment was “pre­pared to do what’s nec­es­sary” to stop peo­ple- smug­glers from trans­port­ing asy­lum­seek­ers by boat to Australia.

“I think it’s very im­por­tant that the Aus­tralian public are re­as­sured that there is a gov­ern­ment in charge which will not waver for a sec­ond in our de­ter­mi­na­tion to en­sure that the boats stay stopped,” he told re­porters.

“And it’s very im­por­tant that the In­done­sians know that the Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment is ab­so­lutely res­o­lute in our de­ter­mi­na­tion never to see this evil (peo­ple-smug­gling) trade start up again.”

Ab­bott said keep­ing the boats stopped was good for both coun- tries and had helped pre­vent asy­lum- seek­ers from risk­ing their lives on treach­er­ous sea jour­neys.

“We will do what­ever is rea­son­ably nec­es­sary, con­sis­tent with the prin­ci­ples of a de­cent and hu­mane so­ci­ety, to keep the boats stopped,” he added.

Greens Sen. Larissa Wa­ters said her party would move in the up­per house Se­nate on Mon­day for an or­der “for a pro­duc­tion of doc­u­ments to try to get to the bot­tom of whether money has changed hands, po­ten­tially il­le­gally.”

In­done­sia’s for­eign min­istry spokesman Ar­rmanatha Nasir said Satur­day Jakarta was seek­ing clar­i­fi­ca­tion from its neigh­bor and the pay­ments, if true, “will be a new low for the way that the Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment is han­dling this is­sue.”

A spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency, James Lynch, told the BBC Fri­day that UNHCR staff in­ter­viewed the 65 pas­sen­gers on board “and they have said that the crew re­ceived a pay­ment.”

The asy­lum- seek­ers — from Bangladesh, Myan­mar and Sri Lanka — ar­rived on Rote is­land in late May af­ter be­ing in­ter­cepted by the Aus­tralian navy en route to New Zealand.

Ab­bott’s con­ser­va­tive coali­tion im­ple­mented a tough im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy af­ter com­ing into power in Septem­ber 2013 that in­cluded mil­i­tary- led ef­forts to turn back such boats, which mostly come from In­done­sia.

The hard-line pol­icy also

in- volves send­ing asy­lum- seek­ers that ar­rive by boat to camps on the Pa­cific is­lands of Nauru and Pa­pua New Guinea de­spite strong crit­i­cism from rights groups.

They are banned from set­tling in Australia even if found to be gen­uine refugees.

Only one boat with asy­lum­seek­ers has reached the Aus­tralian main­land since De­cem­ber 2013. Be­fore the pol­icy was in­tro­duced, boats were ar­riv­ing al­most daily, with hun­dreds drown­ing en route.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Taiwan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.