Posted on March 10, 2016

Australia Sends Migrants Back on Fishing Boat

Sky News, March 10, 2016

Six Bangladeshi migrants caught entering Australian waters have been sent back to Indonesia on a fishing boat, according to an Indonesian official.

The decision has been criticised by the Indonesian foreign ministry, which is opposed to Australia’s controversial policy of returning migrants.

It warns that such acts could be dangerous at sea.

The six men, along with two Indonesian crew, left from the eastern Indonesian city of Kupang last week bound for Australia.

After three days at sea they reached Australian waters, but had engine trouble and the boat began to sink.

They were picked up by the border patrol.

Local water police chief Teddy John Sahala Marbun said: “After several days of sailing, the Australian customs vessel then entered Indonesian waters and handed the men over to an Indonesian fishing boat.”

He said they gave the fishermen fuel and other supplies and asked them to return the men to eastern Indonesia.

The crew have been detained in Kupang and could face people smuggling charges, which carry a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.

The boat’s captain told officials he was paid the equivalent of £4,900 to take the six Bangladeshis to Australia.

Australia’s policy of intercepting and turning back boats trying to reach the country has largely stemmed the flow of vessels, but some still try to make the journey.

The controversial approach has created tensions with Indonesia, the starting point for many economic migrants heading for Australia.

Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said Jakarta’s position on the policy remained unchanged.

“We do not support such acts, especially when done on water. It could potentially be dangerous,” he said.

“It would also not provide a permanent solution to illegal migrant issues.”