Category Archives: Asylum Seekers in Indonesia

Bogor authorities to evict asylum seekers

April 12, 2014

Hard life: Two Afghan refugees, Ishaq Ali (left) and Qurban Ali, repair water pipes leading to their rented house in Batulayang village, Cisarua district, Bogor, last week. Bogor authorities were to launch raid on illegals living on the Puncak mountainous resort on Monday. (JP/Wendra Ajistyatama)

Hard life: Two Afghan refugees, Ishaq Ali (left) and Qurban Ali, repair water pipes leading to their rented house in Batulayang village, Cisarua district, Bogor, last week. Bogor authorities were to launch raid on illegals living on the Puncak mountainous resort on Monday. (JP/Wendra Ajistyatama)

Bogor authorities are set to crack down on asylum seekers and refugees in the mountainous resort region of Puncak, although many local people have no objection to their presence and activities, which have reportedly caused no trouble for the community. 

Residents of Batu Kasur village in Batulayang said the asylum seekers and refugees, who have left their home countries in the Middle East, should not be removed, but that the relevant authorities should instead help them to solve their problems.

The villagers’ testimonies contradict a recent statement from a Bogor official, which said that the asylum seekers and refugees had caused trouble for local people.

“We want the regency of Bogor to be free of [asylum seekers] due to the trouble they have caused to local communities,” Bogor public security agency head Rizal Hidayat said.

He said last week that residents had complain about unruly behavior from the asylum seekers, such as bringing home sex workers and being rowdy. He added that their presence had become a nuisance.

A large number of asylum seekers, mostly from Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, are using the Puncak area of Bogor regency as a place of transit while they apply for official refugee status from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Jakarta.

Most of them hope to reach a third country such as Australia, due to the peaceful conditions and the perceived job prospects there.

In contrast to Rizal’s statement, 60-year-old vendor Popon said that she did not mind the asylum seekers living in her neighborhood because they all had exhibited good behavior and helped to boost the local economy.

“I don’t know about the asylum seekers in other villages, but over here, they do not cause any trouble,” Popon told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

According to Waspud “Budi”, a Kuningan-born resident who is renting houses to asylum seekers and refugees in Batu Kasur, those living in his neighborhood are abiding by the rules set by the community.

“In order to live in this neighborhood, we give them a set of rules to abide by, including not disturbing the peace of residents, respecting a 10 p.m. noise curfew and not bringing sex workers into the homes. So far, they have not broken the rules,” Budi said on Sunday.

Budi added that the presence of the asylum seekers and refugees had benefitted the neighborhood economically.

“They spend money at our warung [food stalls] and markets, helping to boost the local economy. They are also helpful people, despite not speaking our language,” he added.

The majority of the asylum seekers cannot speak English or Indonesian. Due to the language barrier, many of them do not interact with local residents.

“We rarely interact with the locals directly, but at the mosques we exchange friendly looks,” said Qurban Ali, an Afghan-born refugee from Quetta, Pakistan, who has been living in Batu Kasur for eight months. He has only been learning English for three months and speaks no Indonesian.

Similarly, Ishaq Ali, a 33-year-old former school librarian from Jaghori, Afghanistan, who is fluent in English, said that despite the language barrier, he found the residents helpful.

“The residents here are helpful. Even though I speak very little Indonesian, it seems to be enough for them to understand me,” he said.

Qurban and Ishaq, who are not related, are both Afghan-born asylum seekers. They have applied for official refugee status from the UNHCR office, and each share a house with four or five other Afghanis in Batu Kasur village. 

Qurban, a father of five who was previously a dried fruit merchant in Quetta, received his refugee card from the UNHCR eight months ago. After being granted legal refugee status, the UN said that he would be relocated to Australia. However, Qurban does not know when that will happen.

Ishaq has not yet received his card, due to the fact that he has only been in Indonesia for around a month.

When asked about the prospect of being evicted by the Bogor government, both men were unsure where they would go if they were asked to leave their current homes.

“If the [Bogor] government asks us to leave this area, I don’t know where I could go,” Qurban remarked.

According to the Bogor Immigration Office, 254 refugees are registered in Bogor regency. Over recent years, the administration has sent 257 asylum seekers to detention centers across Indonesia. 

On April 14, the Bogor Immigration Office — along with the Bogor public security agency, the police and the Law and Human Rights Ministry — intends to conduct a campaign to inform local residents, as well as the asylum seekers and refugees, of the plan to eject them from Bogor regency. 

The campaign will involve informing residents that lease their houses to the asylum seekers and refugees of the plan.


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Indonesia to raise Australian asylum seeker policy with United States

February 15, 2014

Marty Natalegawa and Julie Bishop

Marty Natalegawa and Julie Bishop

Indonesia says it will raise the Abbott Government’s asylum seeker policy with the United States during official talks next week.

Jakarta has stepped up its protest to the Coalition’s boat turn-back policy, calling in the Australian ambassador in Jakarta for a meeting with a senior official.

Indonesia’s foreign affairs minister Marty Natalegawa says a strong protest message was given to Australian ambassador Greg Moriarty over the use of lifeboats to send asylum seekers back.

Dr Natalegawa says Australia was already violating its international commitments, but the use of lifeboats to send people back is an escalation.

“What Australia has been doing is a bigger development than before,” he said.

“In the past when they have turned back the boats, or pulled the refugee boats back to Indonesia, that alone is a violation against their international commitment under the Refugee Convention.

“But this time it has escalated.”


Dr Natalegawa told reporters Indonesia does what it can to stop boats leaving the country and that Australia’s actions are “against the values of humanity”.

He says he will inform US secretary of state John Kerry – who will visit Jakarta next week – about Australia’s actions and let officials draw their own conclusions.

“There is no need to ask; we only need to inform it, and let America draw its own conclusion,” he said.

Dr Natalegawa says he will discuss Australia’s policy with other countries as well.

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Asylum seekers: UN trying to corroborate accounts after claims of abuse by Australian Navy

January 26, 2014

Asylum seeker receives treatment in Indonesia

The UN Refugee Agency says it is trying to “corroborate” the individual accounts of asylum seekers who claim to have been abused by the Australian Navy as their boat was turned back to Indonesia.

Footage obtained by ABC News shows asylum seekers with severe burns to their hands, but it is impossible to verify how they received them.

Some of the asylum seekers who were turned back to Indonesia say they were abused and suffered burns after being forced to touch the boat’s engine.

Indonesian police have indicated they do not have the power to investigate the allegations, and they want the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to investigate.

“UNHCR has heard serious allegations of boats carrying potential asylum seekers being pushed back from Australia to Indonesia and of mistreatment during the process,” a refugee agency spokeswoman in Jakarta told AFP.

“We are corroborating these individual accounts. If confirmed, we hope that the Australian authorities will conduct a swift investigation into these allegations.”

A UN spokeswoman told the ABC that its inquiries did not qualify as an investigation, but the refugee agency was “asking additional questions to corroborate the facts”.

“These are serious allegations and we need to be fairly sure before taking further action,” she said.

Indonesian police say so far the only witnesses are the asylum seekers.

National Police spokesman Ronny Sompie says it cannot be determined whether the alleged mistreatment happened inside Indonesian waters.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has emphatically rejected the asylum seekers’ claims.

The Federal Government has said it is willing to provide any documents and videos it has in order to refute the accusations.

The UNHCR has previously warned that turning boats back to Indonesia may be in breach of international law.



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Jakarta demands: stop your boats

January 17, 2014

Staying tight lipped over the incursions: Lieutenant-General Angus Campbell, left, and the Immigration Minister Scott Morrison.Staying tight lipped over the incursions: Lieutenant-General Angus Campbell, left, and the Immigration Minister Scott Morrison. Photo: Andrew Meares

Jakarta has demanded an immediate halt to the Abbott government’s asylum-seeker turnbacks policy and announced it will send a frigate to bolster its southern defences after Australian ships repeatedly breached Indonesian territorial waters.

In a dramatic escalation of the diplomatic tensions over border protection, Indonesia drew a line in the sand, saying it would step up its own maritime patrols.

After the Abbott government was forced to apologise over the incidents, Agus Barnas, the spokesman for the Co-ordinating Ministry of Political, Legal and Security Affairs, said the Indonesian government branded the incursions “a serious matter in bilateral relations”.

Turned back: Asylum seekers whose boat later sank. They were put on an Australian navy lifeboat and sent back to Indonesia on Wednesday. Photo: Supplied

“Indonesia demands that such operations conducted by the Australian government that led to these incidents be suspended until formal clarification is received and assurances of no recurrence of such incidents has been provided,” he said.


“The government of Indonesia has the right to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity in accordance with international laws and the charter of the United Nations.”

Fairfax Media understands that three navy ships – including the heavily-armed frigate HMAS Stuart – and one Customs ship have crossed the 12-nautical-mile limit on a total of five occasions since December 13.

The incursions have raised questions as to whether the Abbott government’s tough policies are pushing navy and Customs ships too close to the maritime boundary.

Sources told Fairfax Media there had been concerns raised that the Operation Sovereign Borders Joint Agency Taskforce – the border protection leadership – was ordering navy and Customs ships to positions too close to the maritime boundary in order to carry out the government’s tough policies.

In some cases, ship commanders even raised questions at the time whether positions to which they were directed put them at risk of crossing the boundary.

One source said a review announced on Friday by Immigration Minister Scott Morrison would clarify whether border protection command and control was “playing too fine a line in positioning the ships too close to Indonesian waters”.

Mr Barnas told a news conference in Jakarta on Friday afternoon that Indonesia “deplores and rejects the violation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity by the Australian vessels”.

“The government of Indonesia underlines that any such violation on whatever basis constitutes a serious matter in bilateral relations of the two countries,” he said. “Indonesia for its part will intensify its maritime patrols in areas where violation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity are at risk.”

Mr Morrison and the head of Operation Sovereign Borders, Lieutenant-General Angus Campbell, refused to give details of the incursions.

One of the incidents is understood to have happened while an Australian ship was rescuing asylum seekers from their foundering vessel. But a recently retired navy captain, Lieutenant Commander Barry Learoyd, who served on border protection operations, told Fairfax Media at least some of the incursions had most likely happened while controversial boat turnbacks were being carried out.

“That’s probably the only really plausible thing I can see happening … If they’d inadvertently gone over the line, it would be because they’ve stopped, put their seaboats in the water and made sure these vessels are being pointed in the right direction and maybe the tide or the current has taken them over the line inadvertently.”

Mr Morrison said the government had swiftly apologised to Jakarta. The Chief of Navy, Vice-Admiral Ray Griggs – who is known to have good relations with his Indonesian counterpart – also made a personal apology.

A defiant Mr Morrison insisted the government would stick with its tough approach. “We deeply regret the events. However, the Australian government remains committed to continuing to implement our policies to stop the boats,” Mr Morrison said.

“There has been an inadvertent incursion into Indonesia’s territorial sovereignty. That was not the policy of the government. This was actually in direct contradiction to the government’s policy.”

The Australian deputy ambassador, David Engel, conveyed the Abbott government’s apology to Indonesia in a 35-minute meeting with a senior official in Jakarta late on Friday.

Mr Engel did not comment as he emerged, except to say: “I just had a constructive, cordial meeting, i conveyed the government’s apology … Now I have to get back to the embassy and report back to my government”.

Fairfax Media was seeking a response from Mr Morrison on Friday night but a spokeswoman said the minister was travelling and could not be reached.

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Australian border protection vessels ‘breached Indonesian territorial sovereignty’, Scott Morrison

January 17, 2014

The Australian Government has apologised to Indonesia after admitting vessels operating under its border protection policy had “inadvertently” breached Indonesian territorial sovereignty “on several occasions”.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said he was told on Wednesday that “border protection command assets had in the conduct of maritime operations associated with Operation Sovereign Borders inadvertently entered Indonesian territorial waters on several occasions”.

Blaming the incursions on “positional errors”, he said they were “in breach of Australian Government policy”, and that Australia’s Chief of Navy, Admiral Griggs, had phoned his counterpart in Indonesia late yesterday to “provide an explanation”.

Mr Morrison said Foreign Minister Julie Bishop also “sought to speak to her Indonesian counterpart, foreign minister (Marty) Natalegawa last night, to advise him of this conversation and to offer an unqualified apology on behalf of the Australian Government”.

Mr Morrison said the Government took its “shared commitment with Indonesia to mutually respect the sovereignty of each nation very, very seriously”, and that it remained committed to avoiding violations of Indonesia’s territorial sovereignty when conducting operations under Operation Sovereign Borders.

“Furthermore we take any operational failure to comply with this policy extremely seriously as a government,” he said at a news conference this morning.

The admission comes as Indonesia says it is investigating reports Australia has begun turning asylum seeker boats back to Indonesian waters, a policy it opposes.

Indonesia has previously expressed its concern that Australia’s border protection policy would lead to a breach of its territorial sovereignty.

Lieutenant General Angus Campbell, the commander of Operation Sovereign Borders, said that while he was confident the breaches were unintentional, a review of operations would determine how many breaches occurred, when and why.

“We have never intended for our assets to operate or to enter the sovereign territory of another nation,” he said, adding that “our people on these vessels believe they were at all times outside Indonesian waters”.

He continued: “I’m sure all those involved in the conduct of Operation Sovereign Borders regret any affront to Indonesia these events may have caused. I believe our people were acting in good faith at all times.”

General Campbell said he had written to the CEO of the Australian Customs and Border Protection service, Michael Pezzullo, and the Chief of the Defence Force, General David Hurley, who have co-responsibility for border protection command, asking that they jointly review the breaches.

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Australia’s Asylum-Seeker Policy Irks Indonesia

January 07, 2014 | The Wall Street Journal

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa criticized Australia’s policy toward asylum seekers. Reuters

CANBERRA—Australia’s two-month diplomatic standoff with Indonesia is intensifying following reports that a boat carrying asylum seekers ran aground in Indonesian waters after an Australian warship escorted it away from its own territory.

At a news conference Tuesday, Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa criticized Australia’s hard-line policy of turning back asylum seekers who set out from Indonesian waters. He declined to confirm or comment on the most-recent boat incident, which was detailed in conflicting Indonesian media reports.

The Jakarta Post, citing the police chief in the eastern city of Kupang, reported the boat ran aground Monday, while other media reports said the accident occurred last month.

Australia declined to comment on whether its navy had recently turned back an Indonesian boat. Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said Tuesday it was the policy of Australia’s conservative government to refrain from giving details of its operations or plans as this could provide intelligence to people smugglers.

Ties between the two nations hit a nadir in recent months in a row over alleged spying by Canberra on top Indonesian officials. Jakarta has previously also expressed reservations about Australia’s policy of blocking boats carrying asylum seekers and sending them back to Indonesia, which is a frequent staging post for refugees from places including Afghanistan, Iraq and Sri Lanka.

“Let me put on record our rejection of policies that resemble the pushing back [of the] boat,” Mr. Natalegawa told reporters. “Such a policy is not conducive to a comprehensive solution to the issue.”

The Indonesian media, citing police authorities, reported that 47 asylum seekers from Africa and the Middle East were turned around by the Australian navy. Their boat ran out of fuel and foundered on Rote Island, where Indonesian authorities picked them up, according to a state news agency report.

Australia’s Fairfax newspapers, citing unidentified people, said the government wouldn’t stop turning back asylum seekers and instead was considering transferring any found in Australian waters in the future onto powered inflatable lifeboats so that they could be safely transported back across the porous sea border between the two countries.

Australian opposition parties used the occasion to criticize Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s asylum policy. “The question is: Was it safe?” asked Sarah Hanson-Young, immigration spokeswoman for the Greens party. “The reports are that this boat ran out of fuel. There are a lot of questions about how concerned the Australian government is about the lives of these people.”

Mr. Abbott needs the support of the Greens to push legislation through the upper house, where they hold the balance of power.

Asylum is a key plank of Mr. Abbott’s policy agenda. His promise to stop a surge in boat arrivals under the previous Labor government helped his Liberal National coalition win the September election.

The right-leaning government recently stopped announcing attempts by asylum seekers to reach Australia by boat, partly to deter people from making the often-hazardous journey.

The treatment of asylum seekers has been a flashpoint in Australian politics for more than a decade, helping swing the outcome of several closely fought elections as the major parties wrestled to appear better at defending the country’s vast sea borders, covering some three million square nautical miles.

Australia’s alleged spying and its tough asylum policies recently led President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s government to withdraw cooperation with Canberra on efforts to counter human-trafficking networks at Indonesian ports.

In November, the United Nations refugee agency criticized Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers on remote Pacific islands, saying Canberra was ignoring humanitarian obligations in the implementation of its refugee policy.

—Ben Otto in Jakarta contributed to this article



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Australia ‘forces’ asylum seeker boat back to Indonesia

January 07, 2014

Australia has turned back at least one asylum-seeker boat to Indonesia, believed to be the first time the Abbott government has fulfilled its tough border protection pledge, in a move that has the potential to increase tensions between the two countries.

Australian and Indonesian sources have confirmed to Fairfax Media that at least one asylum-seeker vessel has been turned around. It is understood that the Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Stuart performed a “turn-back” in the past week.

No comment: Immigration Minister Scott Morrison.Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says he won’t comment on reports about ”on-water activities” for ”operational security reasons”. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The asylum-seekers aboard the boat were given life-jackets and communications equipment before being directed to the nearest land, which was Indonesia, a Defence source said.


Immigration Minister Scott Morrison refused on Tuesday to comment on reports that a boat had been turned around.

There are conflicting reports as to the precise dates of the incidents and how many times it has happened.

Indonesian water police told Fairfax Media that two boats have been turned back by the Australian Navy, one on Monday and one in December.

The boat from Monday carried 45 passengers, 36 of whom were male and nine female, mostly asylum-seekers from Africa though with several from the Middle East, according to Indonesian police sources.

The boat from December carried 48 asylum-seekers from Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea and Iran.

The Jakarta Post says a boat carrying 45 ”illegal immigrants from Africa and the Middle East” was about to enter Australian waters on Monday but was ”immediately forced into Indonesian waters”. The ABC quotes Indonesia’s government newswire Antara as reporting that a boat carrying 47 asylum seekers was intercepted by the Australian navy on December 13 and ”forced back” to Indonesia.

Both news reports are attributed to the Indonesian police chief Hidayat.

In a statement on Tuesday morning, Mr Morrison said the government would not comment on reports of ”on-water activities” for ”operational security reasons”.

”Australia respects Indonesia’s territorial sovereignty and will continue to do so, just as Indonesia has stated it respects Australia’s territorial sovereignty,” he said in a statement.

”It is not the policy or practice of the Australian government to violate Indonesian territorial sovereignty. Any suggestion to the contrary is false.

”People should not seek to come to Australia illegally by boat. It is dangerous and the Australian government’s strong border protection policies under Operation Sovereign Borders mean that they will not succeed in what they set out to achieve.”

The Indonesian government said on Tuesday it has no knowledge of any asylum seeker boats being turned around by the Australian navy.

Agus Barnas, spokesman for Indonesia’s Coordinating Ministry for Politics, Law and Security, said he was unaware of any turnbacks, but he said: ‘‘If the Australian navy reject that boat, basically it’s their right.’’

He said Indonesia was observing a moratorium on co-operating with Australia on people-smuggling after last year’s spying scandal.

Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said Mr Morrison needed to clarify what had happened and the circumstances in which the alleged incident occurred.

”We should not be finding out from the Indonesian media before we find out from our own government,” Senator Hanson-Young said.

The asylum seekers ”could have drowned”, she said, adding that the towback practice was dangerous and legally questionable.

When the Abbott government took office Mr Morrison said he would give weekly briefings to update the public on his ”Operation Sovereign Borders” asylum seeker policy and the number of boat arrivals.

He established a routine of holding a press conference every Friday, in which, accompanied by Sovereign Borders commander Angus Campbell, Mr Morrison would give a statement and then answer journalists’ questions.

But the Friday before Christmas, Mr Morrison told journalists that would be his last question and answer session for the year and he would be issuing written statements instead.

Mr Morrison’s promise to ”turn back boats where it is safe to do so” was a key plank of the Abbott government’s election promise to ”stop the boats”.

But the Indonesian government does not accept the turn-back policy, and Jakarta’s irritation with the plan was inflamed further during the recent diplomatic feud over revelations that the Australian government monitored the phones of the Indonesian president and his wife.

Mr Morrison tried to return a boatload of asylum seekers to Indonesia in early November but failed to convince Indonesian officials to accept its return.

The Abbott government capitulated and ordered a Customs boat to take the asylum seekers to Christmas Island.

with Amilia Rosa, AAP


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Three dead as asylum seeker boat founders off Java

December 10, 2013

Indonesian drowning deaths

Rescuers push the disabled boat to shore at Ciawi Beach in West Java Province.

At least three people have drowned when a fishing boat carrying 30 asylum seekers heading for Australia capsized off the West Java Province after its engine failed.

Reuters Newsagency says one of those who died was a two-year-old child.

It says the passengers were mostly Iranian and ethnic Rohingya who said they were stranded at sea for nearly three hours off Ciawi Beach before being saved by local authorities and fishermen.

One of survivors, Jamil, said that the group was making its way to Australia.

He said the group bought the boat from locals.

“They give us a boat and they give us a bad engine and the engine failed. They are not sorry for us,” he said in broken Bahasa.

About 400 boats carrying asylum seekers have made their way to Australia over the past year and about 45,000 asylum seekers have arrived since late 2007, when the former Labour government relaxed border policies, eventually tightening them again in the face of a voter backlash.

The issue has been a priority for the new Coalition conservative government. Australia’s Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has acknowledged that there has been a spike in asylum seeker boat arrivals since late November.

Four boats, carrying a total of 162 asylum seekers and six crew, have been intercepted in the past 10 days.

Also last week, 27 asylum seekers arrived undetected on Christmas Island.

Australia’s Indian Ocean territory of Christmas Island is a frequent destination for asylum seekers, who travel by often crowded boats from Indonesia, with the help of people-smugglers.




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Indonesian immigration official: Boat people free to go to Australia

November 23, 2013

Boat people fee to leave Indonesia ... Senior Immigration official in Indonesia says the spying issue has so incensed the countr

A SENIOR Indonesian immigration official says he will no longer take measures to stop asylum seekers attempting to take boats to Australia as the fallout over the spying scandal continues.

The comments, from the head of immigration at the Law and Human Rights Agency in Medan, come as asylum seekers in Cisarua, south of the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, say they hope to take advantage of the breakdown in co-operation with Australia and may take boats in the coming days.

Several Sri Lankan asylum seekers told AAP they had read reports of a diplomatic crisis, in the wake of revelations Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s phone was bugged by Australian spies, and said they were desperate to try to make the crossing to Christmas Island soon.

However, eight Afghan asylum seekers, also in Cisarua, said today they were no longer interested in paying people smugglers to take them to Australia.

The head of immigration at the Law and Human Rights Agency in North Sumatra, Rustanov, who has only one name, said surveillance efforts aimed at stopping boat traffic would be halted.

“We have no business with Australia. Let boat people head there. No surveillance is needed,” he said, according to a report in the Jakarta Post.

The official said his office, in co-operation with police, had in the past frequently arrested asylum seekers attempting to take boats.

“Now there is no need to waste energy arresting them,” Rustanov said.

However, a senior official with the Yogyakarta immigration office, Tatang Suheryadin, said no new policy had been applied following the Indonesian government’s decision to suspend co-operation on anti-people smuggling efforts.

“The Immigration Director General at the Law and Human Rights Ministry has not issued any instructions on the issue,” Mr Tatang said.

West Java police chief Suhardi Alius said his office was waiting for instructions from the National Police regarding the handling of asylum seekers.


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Asylum seekers rescued off Java coast

November 13, 2103

Asylum seekers being off loaded from the Oceanic Protector and transported to Christmas Island after it was involved in a stand off with the Indonesian government earlier this week. Another boat is now in trouble off the Indonesian coast.

Asylum seekers being off loaded from the Oceanic Protector after it was involved in a stand off with the Indonesian government earlier this week. Another boat is now in trouble off the Indonesian coast. Photo: Supplied

All passengers have been safely evacuated from an asylum seeker vessel carrying 51 people, which foundered 3km off the southern coast of Java.

Rahman, a spokesman from Indonesian search and rescue agency Basarnas, said the early hours of Thursday AEDT that all the people, who came from Sudan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, had been removed from the wooden fishing vessel about nine hours after they had first signalled their distress.

There were no fatalities.

It’s understood the boat, which had been bound for Christmas Island, had lost the ability to steer, but still had power.

Australian immigration minister Scott Morrison has not commented on reports of a boat containing Somali asylum seekers reported to have arrived in Darwin.

However, an asylum seeker source based in Indonesia said there had been a boat which was organised by Iranian people smuggler Abu Razul.

With AAP


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Asylum seekers rescued off Indonesia

November 07, 2013

A GROUP of more than 50 asylum seekers has been rescued off the coast of Indonesia after earlier issuing a distress call while en route to Australia.

Indonesian authorities have confirmed a distress call was received from a boat, carrying about 56 people, which had reported engine trouble in the early hours of Thursday morning.

A spokesman for the Indonesian search and rescue agency, BASARNAS, said the boat was about 60 nautical miles off the south coast of Java when contact was made with authorities.

The official said that discussions were underway to organise offloading the asylum seekers in Indonesia, after earlier suggesting they would be escorted to Christmas Island.

It’s understood HMAS Ballarat initially responded to the distress call and that an Australian Customs vessel later became involved in the operation.

A spokesman for Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed the incident.

“Australian authorities are liaising with their Indonesian counterparts in relation to a vessel that has requested assistance as the vessel is within Indonesia’s search and rescue zone,” the spokesman said in a statement on Thursday night.

It was expected more details would be provided at the weekly Operation Sovereign Borders media briefing on Friday.

Both Customs Border Protection and Australian Maritime Safety Authority declined to comment.

The Abbott government has ended the previous government’s practice of detailing asylum seeker boat arrivals as they happen.


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Police Arrest 30 Asylum-Seekers After Tip-Off

October 21, 2103

Rescue operations in West Java when a boat carrying refugees sank in July. The issue of asylum seekers has become a source of tension between Indonesia and Australia in recent months. (EPA Photo/Andra Subhan)

Rescue operations in West Java when a boat carrying refugees sank in July. The issue of asylum seekers has become a source of tension between Indonesia and Australia in recent months. (EPA Photo/Andra Subhan)


Gunung Kidul, Yogyakarta. Gunung Kidul district police arrested 30 people attempting to seek asylum in Australia after they failed to set sail from Parang Racuk beach in the regency on Saturday.

Gunung Kidul Police Chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Faried Zulkarnaen said 13 of the them had come from Pakistan, 11 from Somalia, five from Myanmar and one from Eritrea.

They intended to travel to Christmas Island.

“They left their countries because of political turmoil and violent conflicts. They paid a Jakarta-based broker to smuggle them from Indonesia to Australia, but they were deceived,” Faried said.

The three smugglers involved in the case fled before the police were able to nab them. But Sandika and Dani — two men who were alleged to be assistants to the smugglers — were arrested.

Based on the investigation, the group arrived in Jakarta and traveled by land from the city without clear knowledge of their destination.

They then stayed in a hotel near Krakal beach in Yogyakarta and were subsequently taken to Parang Racuk beach in a truck on Friday night.

The smuggler’s boat was said to be waiting near Parang Racuk beach and was scheduled to take them to Christmas Island, but a dispute between the smugglers and asylum-seekers on the boat caused the broker to immediately leave them stranded in Parang Racuk beach along with the brokers’ assistants.

They attempted to escape when members from the local search-and-rescue team found them, but the team contacted police who deployed officers to capture them.

Faried noted that officers were involved in the operation from midnight Friday until the early hours of Saturday.

He added that after being interrogated, the group was taken to the immigration office in Yogyakarta.

Police are also investigating Sandika and Dani in hopes of tracing their employers who fled the area on a fishing boat to the eastern part of Parang Racuk beach.

Of the tree men who had fled, two are identified as Medi and Hedi Yunus.

The issue of asylum-seekers has become a source of tension between Indonesia and Australia in recent months, with the number of boats carrying them increasing.

In the latest incident, at least 28 asylum-seekers — many of whom were from the Middle East — drowned just off the coast of Java.

In August, former Australian Minister Kevin Rudd signed a much-criticized deal with Papua New Guinea in which it agreed to send boats carrying asylum-seekers to detention centers in Papua New Guinea, just north of Australia.

Australia’s newly elected Prime Minister Tony Abbott turned much of the focus of his election campaign on stopping the number of asylum-seekers arriving by boats.

The government has stated that the policy has been effective in recent weeks.


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Abbott’s words may hurt asylum-seeker policy: expert

October 02, 2103

Prime Minister Tony Abbott
Prime Minister Tony AbbottVicki Wood

PRIME Minister Tony Abbott’s humility may have cooled tensions with Indonesia, but a regional expert believes loose lips could still sink aspects of the Coalition’s asylum-seeker policy.

Indonesia Institute president Ross Taylor said the country’s ruling party, including President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, was preparing for an upcoming election, making it more sensitive to foreign comment.

Mr Abbott’s vows made in Opposition to purchase Indonesian fishing boats and pay village “wardens” for information were used as ammunition by critics keen to highlight the government’s soft spot for Australia.

Asylum-seekers are not the divisive issue in Indonesia that they are in Australia.

“The only reason it makes headlines in Indonesia is when Australian politicians say things that feed a strong nationalist sentiment in Indonesia in the lead up to their (election),” Mr Taylor said.

“When you have the (Australian) Opposition Leader saying, ‘Turn back the boats’, it is seen as, ‘The big rich country to the south has a problem and we can resolve it by sending it back to you’.”

Mr Taylor said it helped explain the Indonesia Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa’s release of private conversations he had with Australian counterpart Julie Bishop in New York.

Indonesia would still have every reason to help Australia with its “turn back the boats” policy, Mr Taylor said, because its own asylum-seeker issues stem from the desire of refugees to reach Australia.

“The major thing (Abbott) had to come to terms with, was without Indonesia’s support, it’s virtually impossible for Australia to come up with a resolution to the asylum seeker issue,” Mr Taylor said.

“My feeling would be the outcome was very satisfactory.”


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Australian PM Wavers on Asylum Seekers During Indonesia Trip

October 01, 2013

Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott (L) breakfasts with Indonesia's top business executives before delivering his address to the Australian and Indonesian business forum  in Jakarta on October 1, 2013. (AFP Photo/ Romeo Gacad)

Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott (L) breakfasts with Indonesia’s top business executives before delivering his address to the Australian and Indonesian business forum in Jakarta on October 1, 2013. (AFP Photo/ Romeo Gacad)

Australia’s new Prime Minister Tony Abbott Tuesday said he remained committed to crushing the “evil scourge” of people-smuggling but appeared to waver on some of the key elements of his hard-line asylum seeker policy.

On a trip to Jakarta, where officials have complained his plans to tackle asylum-seekers arriving by boat threaten Indonesian sovereignty, Abbott said he was encouraged by the response he received at a critical meeting with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

“I made it very clear that this is an issue of sovereignty for us and I think I can say that on the Indonesian side, there was a willingness to be as co-operative as was possible to ensure this evil scourge is ended,” he told reporters. ”We are 100 percent committed to stopping the boats, we are 100 percent committed to the policies that we took to the election and the policies that are necessary to stop the boats.”

Abbott won a landslide election in September with his “stop the boats” mantra, which involved plans to tow asylum-seeker vessels from Australian waters and buy boats from Indonesian fishermen to prevent people smugglers buying them first.

While his policies helped propel him to power in Australia, they caused consternation in Indonesia, with Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa and lawmakers lining up to criticize them.

But on his visit to Jakarta, his first overseas trip since becoming premier, Abbott has striven to strike a conciliatory tone as he seeks to strengthen business ties with Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.

He twice refused to definitively say whether the turn-back plan would actually be implemented.

“Can I just scotch this idea that the coalition’s policy is, or ever has been, ‘tow-backs,’” he said.

“Tow-back” is a term that has been widely used to refer to his plans for Australian navy boats to take boats back to Indonesia when it is safe to do so.

It has been the main reason why officials in Jakarta became concerned that his policies may breach Indonesian sovereignty.

“Our policy, which we’ve repeated till we’re blue in the face, is that we reserve the right to turn boats around where it’s safe to do so,” he said.

“There’s a world of difference between turning boats around in Australia waters, and the Australian navy towing them back to Indonesia,” he said, without elaborating where boats would be dropped off, if not in Indonesia.

Abbott assured Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Monday that Australia had “total respect” for Indonesia’s sovereignty in a bid to ease tensions over the asylum-seeker issue.

His tone is in contrast to remarks made by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who recently declared the government was not seeking permission from Indonesia to implement its policies.

Abbott also declined to say he was committed to the buyback of fishing boats, ridiculed by some Indonesian officials, and said that the policy was only to make money available for fishing communities “to ensure as far as we can we’ve got people working with us rather than against us.”

Abbott’s visit was overshadowed by the sinking of an Australia-bound boat carrying scores of Middle Eastern asylum seekers off Indonesia’s main island of Java on Friday, which has killed at least 41 people and left many others missing.

Hundreds have died in recent years after boarding rickety, wooden boats in Indonesia to make the treacherous sea crossing to Australia.

Abbott’s interest in keeping on Indonesia’s good side is in large part economic, with Indonesia recording strong growth in recent years and the middle class expected to balloon to 135 million people in the next two decades.

“It won’t be very long at all until Indonesia’s total GDP dwarfs ours. From an Australia’s perspective there should be an urgency, a real urgency, to building this relationship,” he told Indonesian and Australian business leaders at a breakfast meeting.

Agence France-Presse


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Asylum seeker boat sank 50 metres off Indonesian shore, survivors say

September 29, 2013

The asylum seeker boat before it sank.

The asylum seeker boat before it sank.

About 50 people are either missing or dead, 30 of them understood to be children, after the boat sank off Agrabinta, a remote area of the coast off the Cianjur region of west Java, after it got into trouble on Thursday.

Survivors say they rang Australian authorities for help on Thursday when both the boat’s engines broke during the voyage.

They say they tried to fix the engines but failed.

Eventually, the motor pumping water off the boat ran out of petrol and the boat started taking on water, asylum seekers say.

We called the Australian Government for 24 hours, they were telling us ‘we’re coming, we’re coming, we’re coming,’ and they didn’t come.

Shipwreck survivor


They then hit rough seas and capsized only 50 metres from the shore.

At least 28 asylum seekers have been found alive, but local authorities fear about 80 people were on the boat.

Survivor Abdullah Al Qisi says that as the boat broke up, only those who could swim made it to the shore alive.

After the sinking the beach was littered with broken pieces of the boat and the bodies of about 21 people, including many children.

One survivor told ABC News he had lost his whole family because Australian rescuers did not come when they phoned a day before the sinking.

“We called the Australian Government for 24 hours, they were telling us ‘we’re coming, we’re coming, we’re coming,’ and they didn’t come,” he said.

“We sent them the position on the GPS, exactly where are we, and we drowned and nobody came.

“This is because of the Australian Government. I want them to know that.”

Search operations were hindered because Indonesian rescue authorities do not have the capability to search during the night or in big seas.

Continuing large ocean swells meant rescue efforts were again delayed on Saturday.

The search is expected to begin properly today.

Mother and seven children among dead

Lebanese community leaders in Melbourne say a mother and her seven children are among those who drowned in the sinking.

Community leader Milad Bardan said about 40 Lebanese asylum seekers drowned or are missing, including Kawthar Taleb and her seven children.


Ms Taleb’s husband, Hussein Ahmad Khoder, swam to safety. Her sister, Raya, and her husband and three children also died.

Mr Bardan said the 40 victims are all from the same area in Lebanon’s north, where people-smugglers are targeting locals looking to flee the violence spilling over the border from Syria.

“Unless Syria settles down, more will come, definitely,” he said.

He said more asylum seekers from northern Lebanon are already en route to Australia, having paid people-smugglers about $20,000 each, and that the community is worried that more could perish at sea.

Relatives of those drowned and missing are gathering in Melbourne today to mourn.

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