Australia Sends Back Another Asylum-Seeker Boat

Jakarta. Twenty-six asylum seekers who tried to make the journey from Indonesia to Christmas Island were found stranded on Argopeni beach in Central Java’s Kebumen district on Monday after being sent back by the Australia navy.

“Based on a report we received from a navy post on Logending beach… the immigrants’ boat was stranded at 1 p.m.,” National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) coordinator Tri Joko Priyono said in Cilacap, Central Java on Monday, as quoted by the state-run Antara News Agency.

The asylum seekers said they had managed to make landfall but were turned away by the Royal Australian Navy. Their boat was destroyed by the navy and they were sent back to Indonesia in a lifeboat as part of Australia’s controversial hard-line “Operation Sovereign Borders” asylum seeker policy.

Christmas Island is a non-self-governing territory of Australia and has been used for decades as an entry point into the country for asylum seekers.

When the search and rescue team arrived on Argopeni beach, the men had already left the boat.

“They were given an orange lifeboat equipped with an air conditioner, television and other facilities,” Tri said. “The lifeboat was exactly the same as the one used by the illegal immigrants who were stranded in Pangandaran, West Java, some time ago.”

As of Monday afternoon, the asylum seekers were being held at the Cilacap immigration office, where they were taken by bus.

Cilacap immigration official Imam Pawira said that the men had originated from a wide range of countries, including Bangladesh, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Nepal and Pakistan.

“All are male, aged between 17 and 35,” he said, as quoted by the state-run radio news portal

The asylum seekers said they spent days cramped in the boat, which they claimed was meant to hold 15 people, before running aground in Central Java.

“The lifeboat has been secured by residents and SAR Lawet Perkasa. [Tuesday morning] it will be pulled to the navy post on Logending beach,” Tri said.

Police said they were searching for the people smuggler who allegedly helped the asylum seekers set out for Christmas Island

“Police are still looking for the man who is allegedly an agent for human traffickers,” Tri said, according to the Indonesian news portal “The person who helped the immigrants ran away.”

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