Scores of asylum-seekers have come ashore in eastern Indonesia after their boat was intercepted by the Australian navy and pushed into Indonesian waters as they headed for New Zealand, police said Monday. The 65 migrants from Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka were spotted by the Australians, said Hidayat, an Indonesian police official on Rote Island in the east of the archipelago.
“According to their testimony, they were pushed back by the Australian navy and immigration after they were interrogated,” said the official, who like many Indonesians goes by one name. “They said they were on their way to New Zealand.” He said they were spotted by local residents Sunday near a beach after their boat sank. Australia’s conservative government introduced tough immigration policies in 2013 to stop an influx of would-be refugees.
Asylum-seekers arriving on vessels are sent to Pacific camps and vessels are turned back when it is safe to do so, or taken back to their country of origin. The new arrivals in Indonesia come as Southeast Asia is gripped by a human- trafficking crisis, which has seen thousands of migrants come ashore after a Thai crackdown threw the illicit trade into chaos. Around 1,800 Rohingya from Myanmar as well as Bangladeshis have landed in Indonesia’s Aceh province this month alone, and others have landed in Malaysia and Thailand.
Hidayat did not say where the latest group, which included women and children, had started their journey, although asylum-seekers have in the past set off from Indonesia en route to Australia. The would-be refugees were being held at a police station and would be processed by immigration officials on Tuesday, the official said.