Immigration Minister Scott Morrison won’t comment on reports that the Australian navy turned an asylum seeker boat back to Indonesian waters.
Conflicting media reports from Indonesia say the Ashmore Island-bound boat was turned back either last month or on Monday, and subsequently became stranded on Rote Island.
But Mr Morrison said for “operational security reasons” he would not comment on the reports, despite the coalition having a pre-election policy to turn back boats.
“Australia respects Indonesia’s territorial sovereignty and will continue to do so, just as Indonesia has stated it respects Australia’s territorial sovereignty,” the immigration minister said in a statement on Tuesday.
“It is not the policy or practice of the Australian government to violate Indonesian territorial sovereignty. Any suggestion to the contrary is false.”
The Greens want Mr Morrison to provide details of the operation, which they say could have endangered the lives of the asylum seekers.
“We’ve got a situation where a boat has been towed back by Australian officers, the boat has run aground,” Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young told ABC radio.
“These people could have drowned.
“How many other boats has this occurred to that we’ve never heard about?”