Australian navy turned back a boat to Indonesia carrying eighteen people – including three asylum seekers, Indonesia’s navy says.
The navy has issued a statement based on accounts given by the crew who were found on a wooden boat stranded on a small island in eastern Indonesia
According to the ABC, the crew reportedly told navy investigators two Australian warships towed back their boat and loaded three extra people on board.
The three people – reportedly asylum seekers – were escorted back to Indonesian waters. One from Indonesia and two from Albania.
The boat was allegedly in Australian waters on May 1 carrying 18 asylum seekers from India and Nepal towards Ashmore Reef.
The crew said the Australian ships escorted them back to Indonesian territory a day later.
The revelations come as last week Prime Minister Tony Abbott cancelled a planned trip to Bali due to an “on-water operation” which Australian government sources believe had the potential to cause “embarrassment” to the Indonesian government.
However on Tuesday, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said the visit was cancelled to allow Mr Abbott to concentrate on next week’s federal budget, according to ABC.
This is the eight confirmed Australian turn-back operation since the first boat arrived on December 19, according to reports in Fairfax.
In early February, about 34 refugees from Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal were returned in one of Australia’s unsinkable orange lifeboats.
This controversy comes as a former Salvation Army worker says asylum seekers in Manus Island face regular racist slurs, beatings and unwanted sexual advances.
Nicole Judge, a worker on the island, said she was “shocked and distressed” at the conditions on Manus Island when she arrived in September last year.
In the submission to the Senate inquiry, Ms Judge claims there was sexual activity in the so-called “rape-dungeon” in one of the compounds and was told by the guards to carry a “rape whistle” whilst inside the centre.
When she told Salvation Army staff that a young Myanmar asylum seeker was walking away from a toilet block in pain, her Salvation Army team leader dismissed her concerns, saying that “because these transferees are Muslim and actively engaging in prayer that any sexual activity would have been consensual”.
No follow up occurred, she said.
Ms Judge was told she was “stupid” and “good luck” when she reported another asylum seeker being beaten against a wall with a metal bed frame by two G4S guards.
She said that asylum seekers with mental illness are kept in separate compounds and heard screaming and shaking the fence, when she walked past.