News National Australian navy ‘blew up boat’, asylum seekers claim

Australian navy ‘blew up boat’, asylum seekers claim

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Indonesian officials have been told Australian authorities are putting asylum seekers into lifeboats and turning them away, and that an intercepted fishing boat was blown up.

The second orange lifeboat to strand on Java’s southern coast this month arrived on Karangjambe Beach on Monday, with 26 asylum seekers.

The government is maintaining its secrecy around the use of the vessels, which have so far cost taxpayers $2.5 million, arguing information could give an advantage to people smugglers.

The boats are intended to get asylum seekers safely back to Indonesia without sabotage, as part of the government’s policy to turn back the boats policy.

But local police say this one arrived leaking, after running out of fuel and stranding on a rough coral beach.

Captain Wasidi says the all-male group – from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Egypt, Iraq and Iran – left Pelaburan Ratu in West Java for Christmas Island last Wednesday.

After three days at sea, they were stopped near the maritime border.

“All passengers along with the crew then moved to the Australian troops’ ship and the wooden boat they used from Pelaburan Ratu was then blown up by Australian troops,” he said.

“Then the passengers and crew were taken to Indonesian water using the Australian troop ship with the reason that Australia no longer accepts illegal immigrants.

“When they were near Indonesian water, all passengers and crew were moved to the lifeboat to be sent back to Indonesia.”

The asylum seekers claim it took only around 2.5 hours for the lifeboat to run out of fuel and wash ashore.

Australia has been forced to apologise to Indonesia for incursions into its territory during Operation Sovereign Borders.

Receipts found at the scene of the stranding reveal some of the men travelled to Indonesia via Malaysia and stayed in Bali prior to making their way to Java.

Captain Wasidi says police on Wednesday questioned two of the Indonesian crewmen.

They say they received just 10 million rupiah ($AU950) of 30 million ($AU2580) promised for getting the group to Australia.

A third crewman is on the run.

The group is temporarily being held at an immigration office in nearby Cilacap, which is usually used only for paperwork and lacks appropriate facilities.

Police initially thought the orange lifeboat was looted of its television, navigation equipment, batteries and rope, but the items have since been handed in by locals.

Operation Sovereign Borders commander Lieutenant General Angus Campbell on Tuesday wouldn’t say what, if any, arrangements were in place to retrieve the lifeboats once they land in Indonesia.

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