Australia silent on smuggler bribe claims

Australia has not yet responded to Indonesia's demands for answers on the asylum seeker payment claims. If Australia did pay smugglers to return it would contravene 1951 Refugee Convention, to which it is a signatory.

Australia silent on smuggler bribe claims

World Bulletin / News Desk

 The Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has asked the Australian ambassador to Indonesia for a response to allegations that an Australian official paid smugglers to return a boat carrying migrants to Indonesian shores.

Ambassador Paul Grigson has only just returned to Jakarta after being recalled by Canberra five weeks ago to express its anger over the execution of Bali nine duo, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan.

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told reporters Saturday that he had asked Grigson "directly" because we "have big concerns about it." 

"I have not yet received an answer. The Australian ambassador will take my question to Canberra," he added, according to local Metro TV.

The query is in response to information Indonesia has said it has received claiming two boats carrying six crew and 65 illegal migrants -- Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans and Rohingya Muslims (including a pregnant woman and children) -- were bribed to leave Australian waters and instead go to Indonesia in May.

Jakarta is presently carrying out an investigation into the allegations.

"The information we got was that each of the crew was paid $5000 [to leave]," Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arrmanatha Nasir told Anadolu Agency this week.

"We will decide further action depending on the investigation result. If it's true, it is of great concern," he added.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has not denied the allegations, replying - without wanting "to go into details" - that "the Australian government will do whatever we need to do to keep this evil trade [people trafficking] stopped."

Such actions would be "whatever it takes" as long as it was "consistent with being a humane and decent country," he added. 

Indonesian presidential adviser Hikmahanto Juwana told Anadolu Agency on Saturday 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.

He underlined that if Australia had paid the smugglers to return it would have contravened the 1951 Refugee Convention, to which it is a signatory.

The Convention relates to the Status of Refugees, and is the key legal document in defining who is a refugee, their rights and the legal obligations of signature states.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 13 Haziran 2015, 15:14