"An apology [by Australia] would not have have been necessary if they had followed our initial suggestion": Dr Marty Natalegawa. Photo: AFP
Two asylum seekers jumped off their boat as the Australian Navy was taking them back to Indonesia around Christmas Day, in what a fellow passenger said was a suicide attempt.
Sailors from accompanying navy ships pulled them from the water and put them back on board, asylum seeker Rahman Ali said.
The news comes as Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa commented for the first time about Australian vessels sailing into Indonesian territorial waters, saying the Abbott government should have listened to his strong advice over a number of years to abandon the turn-back policy.
''An apology [by Australia] would not have have been necessary if they had followed our initial suggestion,'' Dr Natalegawa said.
The details of asylum seekers throwing themselves in the ocean come as part of an account which provides further insight into Operation Sovereign Borders.
Mr Ali has told Fairfax Media he was on a small wooden boat carrying 42 people which reached Christmas Island on December 23.
''I could see [Christmas Island] very near, then the navy came and stopped our boat,'' Mr Ali said. ''After that, the fuel was finished.''
An Australian mechanic came out with fuel and checked the engine of the fishing boat to make sure it was still operational.
Then, the day after their arrival, without explanation, the two navy boats began to escort the boat away. The fishing boat was sometimes captained by a navy officer, sometimes by the Indonesian crew.
''After [a while] two guys wanted to do the suicide; they jumped into the ocean. The navy sent a speed boat, and put them in the boat again,'' Mr Ali said.
''After this, on the second day, they lied; they said we can bring you to Darwin.''
For three days the formation of vessels sailed and the asylum seekers believed they were going to Darwin.
About 4am on December 27, when most were asleep, the Australians took the fuel containers from their vessel and left. The passengers realised they were close to southern Java and set out for land.
However, Mr Ali said, the engine stopped before they had made it to land and they were forced to swim for about an hour to get to shore. A woman and her baby were helped by an Indonesian in a small boat.
There have been at least five boats, carrying 215 people, turned back from Australia to Indonesia since December 13. One group last Wednesday was returned on a disposable Australian lifeboat.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has said there have been no boat arrivals in Australia since December 19.
Dr Natalegawa echoed the words of Indonesia's Security Ministry spokesman on Friday, saying: ''We deplore this very serious breach of Indonesia's territory.'' He also said: ''We obviously … reserve our right to protect our territorial integrity.''
Indonesia has announced that by the end of the month it will have sent a navy frigate into its southern ocean.