World Bulletin / News Desk
Australia’s foreign minister has responded to allegations that Australian officials paid people smugglers to turn back a migrant boat by saying Indonesia must “enforce sovereignty over its borders.”
Indonesia -- where the migrants then arrived – has launched an investigation into the case after receiving information that two boats carrying 65 illegal migrants entered Australian waters in May, where each of the six crew received $5000.
“I look forward to hearing the full results of Indonesia’s investigation of the people-smuggling crimes committed in Indonesia,” Julie Bishop told The Australian in an interview published Monday.
The foreign minister said the investigation could include “any breaches of passport and visa laws, and establishing whether the captains and crews of these boats are part of people-smuggling syndicates or are paid by them.”
She added that “the best way for Indonesia to resolve any concerns” about Australia’s policy of stopping migrants and asylum-seekers from arriving at its shores would be “for Indonesia to enforce sovereignty over its borders.”
Bishop stressed the necessity of the controversial Operation Sovereign Borders by saying “Indonesian boats with Indonesian crews are leaving Indonesia with the express intention of breaching our sovereignty, facilitated by illegal people-smuggling syndicates.”
Since the allegations against the Australian navy and customs officials arose, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has not denied the claims, attempting instead to underline that his government was prepared to do whatever necessary to stop the trafficking.
"The only question that matters is, is this government prepared to do what's necessary to keep the boats stopped?" he told reporters Sunday.
"The answer is yes."
He added that Australia would “do whatever is reasonably necessary consistent with the principles of a decent and humane society to keep the boats stopped.”
Since the allegations were initially reported by the Sydney Morning Herald June 10, the United Nations has interviewed asylum seekers on board the boats who claim to have witnessed the handover of thousands of dollars by an Australian navy representative on condition the crew return the vessel to Indonesia.
Indonesia has said it has received information claiming that two boats carrying 65 migrants -- Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans and Rohingya Muslims (reported to include a pregnant woman and children) -- were bribed to leave Australian waters in May.
"The information we got was that each of the crew was paid $5000 [to leave]," Indonesian Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arrmanatha Nasir has told Anadolu Agency.
“We will decide further action depending on the investigation result. If it's true, it is of great concern," he added.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Regional Director James Lynch has said that they had also interviewed the 65 passengers and they had said that the crew received a payment.
He also said that the asylum seekers also claimed they were held on an Australian customs vessel for four days before being put on two blue boats and returned to Indonesia.
"What we were told — this is unconfirmed — but what we were told by the 65 passengers is that they were intercepted by a naval vessel from Australia," said Lynch, the ABC reported Sunday.
The opposition Labor's immigration spokesman Richard Marles wrote to the Auditor-General Sunday night asking for an independent probe into the allegations, according to the Australian Associated Press.
"If this happened, there are serious questions about the legal basis upon which it has happened," he told ABC radio Monday.
Labor leader Bill Shorten stressed that people smugglers must “be in prison, not on the government's payroll."
Meanwhile, the Greens’ immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young told ABC that they would be referring the matter to the Australian Federal Police and would seek to use the Senate to pressure Abbott’s government to present documents of the alleged payments.
The Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said it has asked the Australian ambassador for a response to the allegations.
Ambassador Paul Grigson has only just returned to Jakarta after being recalled by Canberra to express its anger over the April 29 execution of Bali Nine duo, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan.
Indonesian presidential adviser Hikmahanto Juwana has told Anadolu Agency that should Australia's actions be found to be true they could be seen as an "unfriendly" act between nations."
Any effort to encourage illegal migrants to travel to this country is troubling," the professor of international law at Universitas Indonesia said.
"Indonesia must deliver the strongest protest," he added.Güncelleme Tarihi: 15 Haziran 2015, 12:37