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Australian navy turns back asylum seeker boat to Indonesia after loading three extra people

Hard line ... Immigration Minister Scott Morrison can expect questions about whether the Australian navy loaded three asylum seekers from a boat that was turned around in February.

Hard line ... Immigration Minister Scott Morrison can expect questions about whether the Australian navy loaded three asylum seekers from a boat that was turned around in February. Photo: Andrew Meares

The asylum seeker boat that allegedly deterred Tony Abbott from meeting Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono this week has been found in Indonesia after the Australian navy reportedly put three extra people on board and then turned it back.

People on board the wooden boat have told authorities in Indonesia that the Australian navy loaded two Albanians and one Indonesian onto the boat before sending it back to a remote island in eastern Indonesia.

An asylum seeker boat carrying refugees arrives on Christmas Island on November 20, 2012. The Australian navy has escorted eight boats back to Indonesian waters since December 19, 2013.

An asylum seeker boat carrying refugees arrives on Christmas Island on November 20, 2012. The Australian navy has escorted eight boats back to Indonesian waters since December 19, 2013.

There is no further information about the extra passengers.

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Scott Morrison would not comment on operations. However, responding to early speculation that two men loaded onto the boat may have been those who were treated medically on Christmas Island in February, the spokesman quoted earlier information that those two men had already been transferred to Nauru.

A statement released by the Indonesian navy late on Monday night said 18 asylum seekers — 16 Indians and two Nepalese — had set out on April 26 from South Sulawesi. They were intercepted by Operation Sovereign Borders vessels on May 1 near Ashmore Reef, an Australian territory in the ocean west of Darwin.

Asylum seekers are transported to Christmas Island in March, 2013.

Asylum seekers are transported to Christmas Island in March, 2013. Photo: Wolter Peeters

The asylum seekers told the Indonesian naval officers the Australian vessels then escorted their wooden boat closer to Indonesia where, on Sunday, the three extra men — two Albanians and an Indonesian — were put on board.

The wooden boat was then left on the ocean and directed towards Indonesian territory. It ran out of fuel at an island in Indonesia’s remote eastern province, where the men were stranded, then found by Indonesian navy personnel.

It is the eighth confirmed Australian turn-back operation since the first boat arrived on December 19.

There is speculation that Tony Abbott cancelled a trip to meet Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to prevent embarrassment over the latest asylum boat incident.

There is speculation that Tony Abbott cancelled a trip to meet Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to prevent embarrassment over the latest asylum boat incident. Photo: AFP

In early February, about 34 refugees from Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal were returned in one of Australia’s unsinkable orange lifeboats. Those people said that two of their number had been ill and had been taken away by the Australian navy.

Mr Morrison confirmed that two people had been taken to Christmas Island with health issues, one at least for “urgent medical treatment with a heart condition”.

No further information about the two has been released.

Mr Abbott had made plans to accept the invitation of the Indonesian president to meet on the sidelines of an “open government” conference in Bali this week to try to smooth tensions over recent spying revelations.

However, Mr Abbott cancelled those plans late on Friday, citing the pre-budget period and the release of the Commission of Audit. The Indonesian president’s spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said Dr Yudhoyono accepted that explanation at face value.

The arrival of this boat, however, raises the question about whether the real reason for the cancellation was to save embarrassment on both sides.

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296 comments

  • "The boats have stopped" lie continues. " We are doing this to stop people risking their lives at sea" lie continues. The boats are still coming and people are still risking their lives at sea.

    Commenter
    DrPhil
    Date and time
    May 06, 2014, 7:04AM
    • not a lie only a lie when these people come here illegally I don't see any problem in India or Nepal so they are illegal get your facts straight.

      Commenter
      Wayne
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      May 06, 2014, 8:46AM
    • Well DrPhil, so be it if they wish to risk their lives go for it they know they will not get into Australia that way. Anyway what your solution that's going to be acceptable to the majority of Australian voters??

      Commenter
      Say it again
      Location
      Vermont South
      Date and time
      May 06, 2014, 8:52AM
    • One day it'll finally sink in that this is an issue the vast majority of Australian's simply do not care about. It may give a number of misguided individuals who read these pages a warm feeling about occupying the morale high ground, but the Abbott government has done the nation a serious favour by putting human traffickers out of business saving hundreds of lives in the process.

      Commenter
      nemises
      Location
      lalor
      Date and time
      May 06, 2014, 8:54AM
    • Wayne, illegal? really? now who is the liar Wayne certainly not Dr Phil, Turn back the Wayne only where safe to do so of course!

      We are a signatory to the UN Convention 1951 and 1967 protocol which gives us certain obligations to people seeking asylum, so in short I think it is you who needs to get your fact right !

      Commenter
      Buffalo Bill
      Location
      Sydneys Northshore
      Date and time
      May 06, 2014, 9:05AM
    • @wayne
      Which of the two facts are not straight? That boats are still making their way here or people are still risking their lives at sea?

      Commenter
      DrPhil
      Date and time
      May 06, 2014, 9:12AM
    • @wayne "I don't see any problem in Nepal or india..." Maybe if you spent less time sipping your XXXX and playing the pokies you might know that both regions are suffering serious internal violence and socio-cultural hardship. But hey, if you ain't seein' it it ain't happenin', right mate?

      Commenter
      Such knowledge
      Date and time
      May 06, 2014, 9:20AM
    • @ Wayne, they are not illegal until they are processed as not being genuine refugees..
      @ Say it again..solution. Process them in Australia, far far far far cheaper (would certainly help balance the budget) and abides by our international legal commitment. Those who are not genuine refugees are then sent back...simple really.
      @ nemisis...you are right... a majority of Australians just don't care. This is the saddest aspect to all of this. Its not the money its costing us, its not the "smugglers" business; its that the likes of you (i assume) who believe it is OK to play with the lives of vulnerable (many of these ppl are actually genuine refugees by the way) to pander to racist, self-centred political motives.

      Commenter
      OMG
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      May 06, 2014, 9:24AM
    • @nemesis, the Abbott government is spending $900 per day per asylum seeker to keep them in detention overseas. The alternative is $36 per day per person to process them in the community. (Aph.gov.au). After processing, If they are found not to be genuine refugees deport them. All this while claiming fire economic circumstances. How is this a successful policy that benefits Australians? What exactly does the average battling punter gain from this policy given that he/she will be feeling much financial pain from Tuesday week? How about using the reported 11 billion spent on asylum seekers in detention to help the 12-25% of our youth to get jobs.

      Commenter
      DrPhil
      Date and time
      May 06, 2014, 9:25AM
    • Call it what you like, DrPhil, but this is about the only promise made that the majority of Australians are well satisfied with.

      Commenter
      Lewis
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      May 06, 2014, 9:28AM

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