Australia PM doesn't deny navy paid people smugglers

‘What we do is we stop the boats by hook or by crook,’ Abbott says in response to reports that officials paid to turn back migrants

Australia PM doesn't deny navy paid people smugglers

World Bulletin / News Desk

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott declined Friday to comment on reports that the country’s navy paid people smugglers thousands to turn a boat of migrants back to Indonesian waters.

"We don't comment on operational matters. We are determined to ensure illegal boats don't get to Australia," he told Radio 3AW.

Abbott’s comments come a day after Indonesia's foreign affairs spokesperson Arrmanatha Nasir told Anadolu Agency that they are awaiting the results of an investigation into claims that two boats carrying six crew and 65 illegal migrants entered Australian waters in May. He expressed concern over information they had received suggesting “each of the crew was paid $5000” to leave the country’s waters.

On Friday, Abbott stressed that Australia “will do whatever is reasonably necessary to protect our country from people smuggling and from the effect of this evil and damaging trade that cost lives."

“What we do is we stop the boats by hook or by crook,” he added. That's what we've got to do and that's what we've successfully done. I don't want to go into how it's done.”

Abbott’s government was elected in 2013 after pledging to "stop the boats" of migrants and asylum-seekers trying to enter the country – many of whom use Indonesia as a transit point. It has a controversial policy of using offshore detention centers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea to process asylum seekers who arrive by sea on boats. 

Abbott told a press conference later Friday that a “whole range of measures” had been used to stop the boats “because that's what the Australian people elected us to do.”

The Sydney Morning Herald reported Wednesday that the allegedly returned boat -- containing 65 Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans and Rohingya Muslims, all of whom were seeking asylum in New Zealand -- was intercepted by Australian navy and customs officials in late May.

Migrants who were on board the vessel said that the crew were also supplied with two new boats to transport them back to Indonesia. 

"We were given money [by Australia], but only the crew of the boats received it," Kayuran -- a Sri Lankan -- told on Wednesday from a hotel in Kupang City in Rote island, where the migrants have since been detained.

Indonesian foreign affairs spokesperson Nasir said that Indonesia would consider further action if the claims proved to be true, including lodging a protest note with Australia or summoning its diplomats in Jakarta.

"There was a pregnant woman and children on board the boat... That [Australia's alleged] action endangered people's lives because it occurred in the middle of the sea," he said.

Rote Police Chief Adjunct Senior Commissioner M. Hidayat told Anadolu Agency by phone Thursday that representatives of the Australia Federal Police had arrived on the island to investigate the claims.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 12 Haziran 2015, 09:59