Tag Archives: boat intercepted

Asylum seeker boat reaches Christmas Island

November 20, 2015 | Sky News

An asylum seeker boat has reportedly reached Christmas Island in the early hours of this morning.

There are reports an asylum seeker boat has reached Christmas Island.

SBS are reporting that the boat made it near Flying Fish Cove before being intercepted by the Australian Navy.

Locals told SBS it is the first time a boat has been that close since January 2013.

It is believed the boat arrived within 200 metres of the cove in the early hours of Friday morning.

It is unclear if the boat was taken to the mainland or whether it would be towed back to its origin.

Source: http://www.skynews.com.au/news/top-stories/2015/11/20/asylum-seeker-boat-reaches-christmas-island.html#sthash.ThUUYTjp.dpuf

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Australian officials paid people smugglers to turn back to Indonesia, says police chief

June 11, 2015 | smh

Asylum seekers from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar appeal to New Zealand.

Asylum seekers from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar appeal to New Zealand.

Australian officials paid thousands of dollars to the captain and crew of a boat carrying asylum seekers, who were then returned to Indonesia, according to passengers and an Indonesian police chief.

Sixty-five people from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, who were seeking asylum in New Zealand, had their boat intercepted by Australian navy and Customs officials in late May, and were then returned to the island of Rote.

The Indonesian police chief on Rote, Hidayat, said the six crew members said they had been given $US5000 each by Australian officials. The crew were apprehended when they arrived at Rote and are being processed for people-smuggling offences.
Mr Hidayat said the captain, Yohanes, told him they had been given the money by an Australian customs officer called Agus, who spoke fluent Indonesian. The other crew members had corroborated Yohanes’ story.

“I saw the money, the $5000 was in $100 banknotes,” he said. The crew had $30,000 in total, which was wrapped in six black plastic bags, he said.

When asked on Tuesday whether Australian officials had recently paid the crew of a boat carrying asylum seekers to stay away from Australia, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton simply said, “No.”

He refused to answer follow-up questions, citing the government’s policy of not commenting on “on-water matters”.

A letter to the New Zealand government signed by all 65 asylum seekers on board says Australian officials paid the six crew members at least $A7000 each.

“Then they take away our better boat and give two small boats that had just a little dry foods like biscuits and chocolates, and they also give very little fuel, just 200 litres for four to five hour journey,” the letter says.

Nazmul Hassan, a Bangladeshi on board the boat, said he saw the skipper put money in his pocket.

He said the crew initially told Australian officials they couldn’t go back to Indonesia because they could be jailed for people smuggling.

However, after a meeting the captain reportedly said: “We have to go back. Australia want to pay for us.”

“After they finished the meeting, everyone looked happy and they agreed to the proposal,” Mr Hassan said from Inaboi, a hostel in Kupang, Indonesia, where the asylum seekers are being detained.

“We didn’t say anything because they didn’t give us time to talk.”

The asylum seekers swam ashore after their boat hit rocks near Landuti island in the West Rote district of Indonesia, 500 kilometres north-east of the Australian coast.

Mr Hidayat said it was the first time he had heard of Australian payments to people smugglers and that he was surprised the crew members had that amount of cash.

“Boat crews are usually very poor,” he said. “I even sent the money to their villages upon their request.”

Mr Hidayat said he had not confiscated the money. “What for? It is not crime-related,” he said.

“I still wonder who Agus is and what is his motivation to give money to boat crews. Maybe he wanted them to go out of Australian border so he gave them the money.”

An Immigration Department spokesman said: “The Australian government does not comment on or disclose operational details where this would prejudice the outcome of current or future operations.”

Former Immigration Department executive Peter Hughes, who now works at the Australian National University as an expert on refugee policies and international migration, said if the payment was true, the move would be unprecedented.

“I have never heard of that happening before,” Mr Hughes said.

In the letter to the New Zealand government, the asylum seekers said they had set off for New Zealand on May 5, after living in Indonesia for a few months.

“Then we hope you [New Zealand] can give asylum and you can also give a peaceful life for us,” the letter says.

It says the boat was intercepted and searched by Australian customs officers on May 17, who warned: “You don’t try to come in Australia and don’t try to use Australia water area also.”

The letter says the navy and Customs returned six days later and removed the captain for a secret six-hour interview.

It says the asylum seekers were then removed from their boat and kept in jail-like conditions on a navy ship for several days.

“Then they separate our six sailors and donated them by giving at least $A7200 per person. They never ask to us any opinions and they also never accept our petition,” the letter says.

On about May 31, they were then given two smaller boats and sent back to Indonesia.

Mr Hassan said Australian authorities had burnt their original boat because it had sufficient supplies for them to continue their journey to New Zealand.

Don Rothwell, a professor of international law at the Australian National University, said if money had been handed out, it could be interpreted as a form of people smuggling.

However, he questioned the motive of the officials to do it.

Professor Rothwell said it was unlikely to breach any laws under the Migration Act.

“The great significance is how this decision would be seen in regards of our regional neighbours,” he said. “If Australian officials were to pay crews to take those people to Indonesia, I suspect that Indonesia and some other regional neighbours would take a dim view of that conduct from Australia.

“I cannot recall any situation where Australian officials have paid crew.”

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/national/australian-officials-paid-people-smugglers-to-turn-back-to-indonesia-says-police-chief-20150609-ghk63g.html

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Australia turned back 65 people on boat, including a pregnant woman, police chief says

June 02, 2015 | smh

Australian customs turned back 65 people, including a pregnant woman, after their boat reached Australian waters last Tuesday, according to an Indonesian police chief.

The 65 people from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, who reportedly claimed to be asylum seekers, are in detention on the Indonesian island of Rote.

Fishermen spotted two boats floating near Landuti island in the West Rote district, 500 kilometres north-east of the Australian coast, on Sunday.

“They looked exhausted,” Rote police chief Hidayat said. “One female passenger is pregnant – we took her immediately to the hospital but she is ok now.”

Mr Hidayat said the migrants told him they had been caught by Australian customs on May 26, who sunk their boat. They were put in two blue and white boats, and sent back into Indonesian waters.

“The Australians provided them with food, drinks and sufficient fuel to reach Indonesian land,” Mr Hidayat said.

He said the passengers included four women and three toddlers. Of the 65, 54 were from Sri Lanka, 10 from Bangladesh and one from Myanmar.

Mr Hidayat denied reports the migrants were headed for New Zealand, saying his network said they wanted to go to Australia.

“Based on information, they started off from Pelabuhan Ratu (in West Java) on May 5 and about two weeks ago I got information from our network that this boat was headed for Australia,” Mr Hidayat said.

“My friends in the Australian Federal Police of course don’t believe it. They said it wanted to go to New Zealand but what would these people do in New Zealand?”

Mr Hidayat said Indonesian police had arrested four of the six crew members. The captain, Yohanes, ran away. “He’s part of the smuggler network in Jakarta, according to the boat crews,” Mr Hidayat said. There was confusion over the whereabouts of the sixth crew member, with some suggesting he was with Australian customs, although it was unclear what that meant.

West Timor Care Foundation chairman Ferdi Tanoni said the migrants were expected to be transferred on Tuesday to Kupang, West Timor’s largest town and the capital of Nusa Tenggara Timur province.

“According to the chief of immigration, the information they received was that these people wanted to go to Australia to ask for asylum,” Mr Tanoni told Fairfax Media.

Although there is an immigration detention centre on Kupang, Mr Tanoni said it was full and the asylum seekers were likely to be accommodated in hotels.

A spokesman for Immigration spokesman Peter Dutton said: “The Australian does not comment on matters associated with on-water operations.”

The Australian navy has repeatedly turned back boats with asylum seekers on board after Prime Minister Tony Abbott came to power in 2013 vowing to “stop the boats”.

The hardline tactic was also initially employed by Malaysia and Indonesia during the recent humanitarian crisis in the Bay of Bengal after boatloads of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants were stranded at sea following a Thai crackdown on people trafficking.

The crackdown led to people smugglers abandoning the boats at sea, leading to deaths and starvation.

Malaysia and Indonesia later agreed to assist the migrants and asylum seekers and provide shelter for up to a year but insisted the international community had to help with their resettlement.

With Karuni Rompies

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/world/australia-turned-back-65-people-on-boat-including-a-pregnant-woman-police-chief-says-20150602-ghei6y

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Government confirms 157 asylum seekers will be taken from Customs boat to Curtin Detention Centre

July 26, 2014

The Government has confirmed it intends to send 157 Sri Lankan asylum seekers who have held been on a Customs boat to Curtin Detention Centre in remote WA.

The group of men, women and children left in a boat from India and have spent nearly a month in legal limbo on board the Customs ship, after being intercepted by Australian authorities.

Previously the Government has only said it is taking the group to the mainland so Indian officials can assess whether they want to take them back.

The asylum seekers will be taken to Cocos Island and then flown to the Curtin centre.

The office of Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says it cannot reveal exactly when the group will arrive.

The ABC understands a charter flight was arranged to collect the group from Cocos Islands but the charter company’s plights are not monitored by flight tracking.

Mr Morrison has insisted no asylum seekers who come by boat would reach the Australian mainland, but he has been forced to make an exception because India wants to interview them.

Mr Morrison says the safest and most convenient way of doing that is in Australia, although he insists they will never be settled here.

He says after Indian officials speak to the asylum seekers, the country will accept back those who are Indian citizens and possibly also Sri Lankan citizens who have been living in India.

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek says they should have been brought to Australia weeks ago.

“As the vessel was close to Christmas Island, it made sense to process people on Christmas Island,” she said.

“It’s only been Scott Morrison’s ego that’s prevented that.”

The High Court is likely to hold a directions hearing next week to examine the implications of the Government deciding to bring the Tamils to the mainland.

The case has been held while the asylum seekers were on the Australian boat at sea, but Hugh de Kretser from the Human Rights Law Centre, who represents the asylum seekers, says the principles of the case are still relevant.

“The case in the High Court really boils down to two simple propositions: one is that the Australian Government cannot, could not intercept this boat and return them to a place where they wouldn’t be safe, and secondly that there needed to be a fair decision-making process around that,” he said.

“They’re the two key concerns of these clients and they will still be relevant in some context in relation to the move to bring them to mainland Australia.”

He says it is too early to comment on whether a return to India would prompt further legal action.

“We need to see what the Government is proposing and then provide advice to our clients about what’s actually proposed,” he said.

Meanwhile Prime Minister Tony Abbott has reiterated his message that those coming by boats will never get permanent residence.

Mr Abbott says the Government will do whatever it legally can to stop boats coming to Australia.

“This is the first boat which has got close to success if you like. We are determined to respond to this one in ways which underline our our absolute implacable opposition to people smuggling,” he said.

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-07-26/government-confirms-sri-lankans-will-be-taken-to-curtin/5626452

 

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Christmas Island staff prepare for arrival of asylum seekers, according to Labor MP Alannah MacTiernan

June 29, 2014

Christmas Island

Staff on Christmas Island are said to be preparing for the arrival of asylum seekers.

Staff on Christmas Island have been told to prepare for the possible arrival of asylum seekers, according to Labor MP Alannah MacTiernan.

An asylum seeker vessel made contact with marine rescue authorities on Thursday night claiming to be leaking oil 300 kilometres west of Christmas Island.

The ABC understands that vessels is from southern India and has more than 150 people on board, including 37 children.

Ms MacTiernan said people onboard two asylum seeker boats were picked up by border protection authorities on Saturday evening.

She said staff on Christmas Island were “on standby waiting for instructions”, but do not know whether the asylum seekers will arrive on Christmas Island or “be taken elsewhere”.

“They’re saying that two boats have been intercepted and the ship on which they’re being loaded is in Christmas Island waters,” she told the ABC.

“And everyone is on standby waiting for instructions as to whether or not the boat is going to be unloaded here or whether or not it’s going to be taken elsewhere.

“They’re hearing the people are from south India but they’re not clear whether or not they’re originally Sri Lankan.”

Earlier on Saturday a man named Duke told the ABC he was onboard an asylum seeker boat in trouble about 250 kilometres north of Christmas Island.

However, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison would not confirm whether the Government was aware of the boat.

“It is our standard practice, as you know under Operation Sovereign Borders, to report on any significant event regarding maritime operations at sea, particularly where there is safety-of-life-at-sea issues associated,” he said.

“I’m advised that I have no such reports to provide … if there was a significant event happening then I’d be reporting on it.”

Boat has 37 children onboard, according to asylum seeker

Duke said the group are mostly Tamils from Sri Lanka, who left from India two weeks ago.

He said the group is determined to make it to Australia to seek asylum.

“[There are] 32 [women] and we have 37 children, 253 kilometres … from Christmas Island,” he told Saturday AM.

“We are refugees. We come from Sri Lanka – we stayed in India and we are unable to live there. That’s why we are coming to Australia.”

The man said the vessel was being buffeted by wild weather and needed assistance.

“It’s heavily raining also. We didn’t get help anywhere. The wind is blowing in high speed, and [there are] huge waves,” he said.

“The children and infants are also in the boat … We can see some boats lights, maybe fishing boats.”

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-06-28/staff-on-christmas-island-told-to-prepare-for-possible-arrival-/5557548

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Race to block asylum seekers

May 02, 2014

Customs officials were last night racing to intercept an asylum-seeker vessel – the first in Australian waters in more than a month.

_The West Australian _ understands Border Protection Command spotted the boat in remote waters between Java and Ashmore Reef yesterday and sent a patrol boat to pick it up.

It was unclear if Customs would take the boat under escort to Australia or try to turn it back to Indonesia.

Since winning power, the coalition has thrown a veil of secrecy over its border protection efforts.

Though the Government says there has not been a single successful asylum voyage to Australia since December, it has refused to give details of how many boats have come to Australian waters but then been turned back or towed back to Indonesia.

There have been six instances in recent months of asylum seekers arriving back in Indonesia aboard big orange lifeboats, claiming they were bundled aboard the boats and pushed back by the Royal Australian Navy.

The Government has confirmed it bought lifeboats for border security operations, but has refused to say what they are specifically for.

The coalition’s clandestine policy of pushing asylum boats back to Indonesia has infuriated Jakarta and led to Australian navy vessels accidentally entering Indonesian waters.

This week it was revealed that the Cambodian Government had agreed “in principle” to house asylum seekers intercepted by Australia.

The plan has been condemned by rights groups and international experts who say Cambodia has a terrible record of human rights.

Under the Government’s policies, all asylum seekers arriving in Australian waters are sent to Manus Island in Papua New Guinea or the small Pacific nation of Nauru.

Lawyers for detainees on Manus Island this week filed an urgent application for protection for a group of asylum seekers who say they witnessed the death of Iranian Kurd Reza Berati.

Mr Berati was beaten to death during riots at the centre in February when local police and villagers stormed the centre.

Source: https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/23135655/race-to-block-asylum-seekers/

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Two asylum seekers transferred to Christmas Island for medical reasons

February 03, 2014

Second asylum seeker taken to Christmas Island as a result of maritime interception activities, Scott Morrison says.

Scott Morrison Senate inquiry
Immigration minister Scott Morrison during a Senate inquiry into the government’s asylum seeker policies in Canberra on Friday. Photograph: Alan Porritt/AAP
A second asylum seeker has been taken to Christmas Island for medical treatment as a result of the government’s maritime operations, according to the immigration minister, Scott Morrison.

The minister told 2GB radio on Monday that there were now two people who had been transferred for medical reasons.

“We’ve had two persons transferred in the last couple of days for medical reasons but no boat has got here,” he said.

The comments indicate another boat operation has occurred since the Operation Sovereign Borders release last Friday, which detailed that one asylum seeker had been transferred to Christmas Island due to a heart condition.

“As a result of our maritime operations during this latest reporting period, one person was later today transferred to Christmas Island, who was subject to a current operation, for urgent medical treatment in relation to a heart condition,” the earlier statement said.

“The arrival of the person for medical treatment took place at approximately 2.30pm AEDT this afternoon.

“I was briefed on this matter after the conclusion of today’s Senate hearing and was advised that this person was transferred at the earliest possible opportunity.”

The minister’s office and customs and border protection have not responded to questions about the nature of the second asylum seeker’s problem.

Concerns continue to be raised about the Coalition’s approach to turning back boats. On Saturday News Ltd published photographs of one of the lifeboats used to send asylum seekers back to Indonesia. The report said three asylum seekers who had been sent back on the boat later died while crossing a river in the Indonesian jungle.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/03/two-asylum-seekers-transferred-to-christmas-island-for-medical-reasons

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