Differences Stoke Political Tension in Asylum-Seeker Debate — The Jakarta Globe

28 Апр 2014 | Author: | No comments yet »
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Differences Stoke Political Tension in Asylum-Seeker Debate

An exhausted child is rescued in Cianjur, West Java on July 24, 2013, after a boat carrying at least 160 asylum seekers from Bangladesh, Iran and Sri Lanka sank en route to Australia. (EPA Photo)

Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency has contradicted the Australian government’s account of a standoff between the two nations’ forces last week, saying the Australian Navy escorted a boat carrying asylum seekers over 50 nautical miles back toward Indonesian territory.

The head of Australia’s military-led effort to stop the flow of asylum-seeker boats, Operation Sovereign Borders, Lt. Gen. Angus Campbell told reporters in Sydney last week that the boat first requested assistance approximately 43 nautical miles south of Java.

Yopi Haryadi, the head of evaluations for the Indonesian search and rescue agency, or Basarnas, said on Wednesday that the boat had been met by Australian forces 107 nautical miles from Java on the same day.

This revelation came as Basarnas and Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison both confirmed another asylum-seeker boat was sinking on Wednesday in Pelabuhan Ratu Bay off Java. Reports indicated people were in the water, with Basarnas on the scene.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott refused to comment on the issue on Australian television last night, saying it was an “operational matter,” and that it would not do any good to “get into an argument” with Indonesia.

Yopi also revealed that the authority to allow Australian Navy and Customs and Border Patrol vessels into Indonesian waters had been moved from Basarnas to the office of the coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, headed by Djoko Suyanto.

This decision came from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Djoko said on Wednesday.

“The president has delegated [me] as the leader on the issue of asylum seekers This is more than just a matter of search and rescue,” Djoko said, adding that the asylum seekers made sure to be picked up by Australian vessels.

“They always declare an emergency to Australia. They request to be picked up by Australian boats because that is their final destination,” he said.

Although the Australians ended up taking the asylum seekers to Christmas Island, it has caused friction between the two countries, with Abbott claiming that Indonesia breached “international law” by not coming to the boat’s aid while inside its own search and rescue zone.

Speaking at a press gathering on asylum seekers on Wednesday, Yopi said Indonesia’s search and rescue zone was “too large” for Basarnas to handle, and that Australia should take more responsibility in helping police the area.

The size of the zone, which extends about 450 kilometers south from the coast of Java, will be discussed at the biannual Search and Rescue Forum between Australia and Indonesia on Nov. 21. Indonesia also intends to appeal to the International Maritime Organization to have the zone reduced.

Basarnas has seen an increase in rescues of what it terms “illegal movement of persons” (IMP) operations, and Yopi points to the new Australian government’s hard-line policies on asylum-seeker boats.

“In 2012, we handled 47 illegal movement of persons operations, and in 2013, this has doubled. This year, we have already done 80 IMP operations. We think that the increasing number of these incidents is caused by the policy and also political situation in Australia,” he said.

Although unsure of the exact number, Yopi said Basarnas had only gone out to “10 to 20 percent” of these incidences, with the Australian Navy or Customs and Border Patrol picking up the rest of the boats.

The Abbott government has refused to release the number of boats arriving in Australian waters.

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