Monthly Archives: June 2013

TWO asylum seeker boats intercepted near Christmas Island

June 30, 2013

Home affairs minister Jason Clare, in statements released today, has reported interception of two boats carrying asylum seekers in Australian waters.

ACV Ocean Protector and HMAS Larrakia, rendered assistance to boats they sought assistance on Friday north east and east-north of Christmas Island respectively. Initial indications suggest there were 47 and 58 asylum-seekers on board.

All on-board asylum seekers have been transferred to Christmas Island facilities for initial health, identity and security checks.


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Kevin Rudd to discuss asylum seeker issue with Indonesian president next week

June 29, 2013

Kevin Rudd: file photo

The issue of asylum seekers is firmly back on the political agenda ahead of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s visit to Indonesia next week.

Mr Rudd will visit Jakarta on Thursday and Friday to take part in the annual Indonesia-Australia leaders’ meeting.

The asylum seeker issue is set to dominate the trip, with speculation that the Labor Party is preparing to toughen its position on the issue.

Both Mr Rudd and Foreign Minister Bob Carr have recently made comments asserting that many asylum seekers to Australia are not genuine refugees.

Yesterday, during his first media conference since his return to the leadership, Mr Rudd said a “whole bunch of people who seek to come to this country are economic migrants”.

In Jakarta, Senator Carr went further, saying there had “been some boats where 100 per cent of them have been people who are fleeing countries where… their motivation is altogether economic”.

During his media conference yesterday, Mr Rudd condemned the Coalition’s policy of turning back the boats, declaring that a “conflict” could unfold between Australia and Indonesia.

“I’m always wary about where diplomatic conflicts go,” he added.

The Opposition’s foreign affairs spokeswoman, Julie Bishop, swiftly slammed Mr Rudd’s comments as “a shocking diplomatic gaffe” and called on him to retract the statement.

And speaking at the Liberal Party’s Victorian campaign rally today, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott slammed Mr Rudd’s statement as hypocritical.

“He stands up and he says he wants less negativity and then launches a ferocious negative attack on the Opposition and its leader,” he said.

But Mr Rudd, who was campaigning in the Blue Mountains this morning, says he stands by everything he said.

Indonesian foreign affairs spokesman Teuku Faizasyah would not be drawn on Mr Rudd’s suggestion, saying it is a matter that the Prime Minister can discuss during his talks.

Indonesia to welcome Rudd visit

Former ambassador to Indonesia Richard Woolcott, who is also a former head of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), told AM that Indonesian politicians are unlikely to be as concerned about the asylum seeker issue as Australian politicians are.

He says Indonesia is already dealing with so many of its own issues and problems, and the issue of asylum seekers is a much less important one.

“The Indonesians I think will not want to involve themselves in our domestic politics of course,” he said.

“They are, by nature, careful and polite in the way they handle issues.

“On the other hand, I think they’ll be anxious to receive Mr Rudd. He’s well-known in Indonesia. I think it’s important and sensible that he’s going ahead with the visit.”

Surge in asylum seeker numbers likely, UN says

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees, Dr Jeff Crisp, says there is likely to be a surge in the number of refugees around the world, regardless of government policy.

“The number of new refugees being created is now at a higher level that at any time in almost 20 years,” he said.

“I regret to say that in 2013, because of the ongoing Syria conflict, the figure is going to be much higher indeed.”

From an international perspective, it’s not always easy for us to understand the degree of concern and even panic which is sometimes expressed by the public and by politicians in Australia.

Dr Jeff Crisp

He says the international community is largely surprised that Australia is so concerned about asylum seeker numbers.

“We recognise that the numbers have gone up in recent years, particularly in Australia, but they’ve gone up much less quickly than the numbers have gone up in developing middle-income countries,” he said.

“I come from the UK, and I’ve worked in Europe for many years, and to be very honest it’s quite difficult for those of us from other parts of the world to quite understand the intense political level to which the asylum issue in Australia has risen in recent years.

“Clearly, there has been an increase in numbers, but… from an international perspective, it’s not always easy for us to understand the degree of concern and even panic which is sometimes expressed by the public and by politicians in Australia.”


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Indonesian Police Detain 56 Asylum Seekers Off Coast of Banten

June 28, 2013

A boat carrying 56 asylum seekers bound for Australia’s Christmas Island were detained by Maritime Police off the coast of Tangerang, Banten, on Wednesday, police said.

Police arrested the boat’s captain, a man identified as Darwis, and the crew of the Kian Santang boat after spotting the vessel in the waters west of Laki Island, off the coast of Mauk, Tangerang, Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Rikwanto said on Thursday. The 56 asylum seekers found on-board were transferred to the Tangerang Immigration Office for processing.

“The Tangerang and Jakarta maritime police stopped the boat and its captain, Darwis, as well as two crew members in waters west of Laki island near Mauk in Tangerang,” Rikwanto said. “There were 56 illegal immigrants on board — 41 men, 11 women and four children. The ship was transporting them to Christmas Island.”

Rikwanto said that the boat, the captain, the crew and the asylum seekers were taken to the Jakarta headquarters of the maritime police.

“Yesterday, at around 5:30 p.m. all immigrants had been handed over to the Tangerang Immigration Office,” Rikwanto said.

Indonesia is a common transit point for Australia-bound asylum seekers, where thousands of potential refugees risk their lives aboard leaky boats operated by people smuggling syndicates.


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TWO aylum seeker boat intercepted near Chrismtas Island

June 27, 2013

Minister for Home Affairs’ office  in media statements released today, reported arrival of two more boat load of asylum seekers in Australian waters.

Border Protection Command ship HMAS Larrakia, intercepted the first vessel on Tuesday north-east of Christmas Island. It was reportedly carrying 79 passengers.

Another boat carrying 65 asylum seekers has been intercepted north of Christmas Island on Wednesday by Border Protection Command’s ship.

All on-board asylum seekers have been transferred to Christmas Island facilities for initial health, identity and security checks.


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Six asylum seekers in Australia’s Nauru camp beaten unconscious – report

June 27, 2013

A refugee activist in Australia says six protesters at the Australian-run asylum seeker detention camp on Nauru were left unconscious yesterday after being beaten by guards.

Ian Rintoul says the guards’ action was a brutal response to a protest by the camp inmates.

He says the protest came after about 50 Palestinians, Sudanese and Lebanese asylum seekers, who were recently transferred from Christmas Island, were addressed by Australian government officials.

Mr Rintoul says the asylum seekers were told that it would take at least six months before they would meet lawyers to consider their claims for refugee status.

He says the inmates staged a protest prompting a brutal response from the Wilson Security detention guards.

Mr Rintoul says the Refugee Action Coalition is calling for a full inquiry and the guards to be held accountable for their actions.


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Filed under Human Rights and Refugee Activists, PNG/Pacific Solution, Torturing and Health Issues

Border Protection Command intercepts vessel

June 25, 2013

HMAS Larrakia, operating under the control of Border Protection Command, intercepted a suspected irregular entry vessel north-east of Christmas Island on Sunday.

Initial indications suggest there were 49 people on board.

The vessel was initially detected by a Customs and Border Protection Dash-8 surveillance aircraft operating under the control of Border Protection Command.

Border Protection Command has now transferred the passengers to Australian Government authorities on Christmas Island, where they will undergo initial security, health and identity checks and their reasons for travel will be established.

People arriving by boat without a visa after 13 August 2012 run the risk of transfer to a regional processing country.


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Authorities delayed on asylum rescue

June 26, 2013

A barge carrying rescued suspected asylum seekers nears Christmas IslandA barge carrying rescued suspected asylum seekers nears Christmas Island.

More than 100 asylum seekers drowned in rough seas between Indonesia and Christmas Island as authorities debated whose responsibility it was to rescue them, an inquest has heard.

Authorities in both countries were lambasted on day one of the two-day inquest into the deaths of 17 people aboard the Kaniva, codenamed Siev 358, which sank on June 21 last year.

West Australian coroner Alastair Hope heard the ramshackle fishing boat was loaded with 210 asylum seekers as it left Java with little water, few life jackets and immediate problems.

It has also emerged that a people smuggler known as Freddy Ambon admitted his involvement in the tragic voyage, referring to the asylum seekers as “goats”.

After becoming stuck in a mud bank for six hours, one crew member abandoned ship as he did not think the boat would make the trip, counsel assisting Marco Tedeschi said.

But the same option was not given to the panicking passengers, who were soon calling the Australian Rescue Co-ordination Centre with fears for their lives.

The boat’s first position was given as 36 nautical miles south of the Sunda Strait, which prompted Australian rescue authorities to tell those aboard they were in Indonesian waters and should turn back.

But Mr Tedeschi outlined a 2004 agreement that says the nation that receives the first distress call is responsible for a rescue – meaning Australia should have acted.

“The reality was [Australia] has responded to distress calls … and was under an obligation to commence rescue operations,” Mr Tedeschi said.

“They needed to do more, they needed to issue distress calls, they needed to think whether they were best placed.”

Indonesian authorities accepted responsibility for the rescue 11 hours later.

But no helicopter, marine police or merchant vessel responded, no naval vessel was ever called, and they turned down an offer from Australia to issue another mayday call.

“The reality is very little was done by Indonesia,” Mr Tedeschi said.

Almost 32 hours after the first distress call, the boat capsized.

It is believed almost all those who died were in the hull.

A further eight hours after it capsized, Customs flight saw the capsized boat, and Australia called all ships in the area to assist.

Merchant vessel MV Dragon responded within two minutes, and was rescuing survivors within 90 minutes.

Caught on camera by an Afghan asylum seeker, Ambon appears to admit his involvement but blames it on a Pakistani business partner.

“It was overloaded – so full,” Ambon says on footage aired by the ABC.

“I told him, ‘Don’t put more passengers on,’ but he insisted. So it wasn’t my fault. I did no wrong.”

Pakistani, Malaysian and Indonesian organisers of the boat have since been arrested in conjunction with the Australian Federal Police investigation, codenamed Operation Calder.

At least one survivor of the tragedy attended court on Tuesday and wishes to give evidence.



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