The Sun (Malaysia)

Australia paid people smugglers: Amnesty

> Accusation­s ‘a disgrace’ and ‘a slur’, says minister


CANBERRA: Australian officials paid people smugglers to take their cargo of migrants back to Indonesia, according to an Amnesty Internatio­nal report released on Wednesday.

The findings, based on interviews with crew members in prison, confirms earlier reports of the May incident, but comes amid persistent refusal to comment from Australia’s then prime minister Tony Abbott.

The report titled By Hook or by Crook says the officials paid US$32,000 (RM138,000) to six crew of a boat taking 65 people seeking asylum in New Zealand, to instead take them to Indonesia.

The officials also gave them a map of Indonesia and told them where to land, the report said.

It raises questions about whether Australian officials paid the crew of another boat turned back in July, the report said.

Indonesian police confirmed they found the cash in crisp US$100 bills on the crew when they arrested them, Amnesty said.

“All of the available evidence points to Australian officials having committed a transnatio­nal crime by, in effect, directing a peoplesmug­gling operation,” Amnesty Internatio­nal refugee researcher Anna Shea said in a statement.

In response, immigratio­n minister Peter Dutton said Amnesty’s report was “a disgrace” and a “slur” against the people who worked to protect Australia’s borders.

Speaking on commercial radio 2GB, Dutton said Amnesty did not like the government’s policy “and the fact we’ve stopped the boats, but we are not going to stop our resolve”.

“We are not going to be bullied into some watering down of that,” he said.

The boat’s captain in June told Indonesian police in the presence of reporters that he and his five crew were paid to take the passengers back to Indonesia and never smuggle people again, the Sydney Morning Herald reported at the time.

The title of Amnesty’s report was taken from Abbott’s promise this year to stop migrant boats “by hook or by crook”.

The government says the policy of turning boats back or taking the migrants to offshore detention centres has reduced the number of people dying in rickety boats trying to reach Australia.

Abbott was replaced last month by Malcolm Turnbull, who is seen as more moderate but has continued the policy, which is also supported by Labour. – dpa

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