The Garut Police arrested 67 illegal immigrants from Palestine as they prepared to go to Sancang Beach in Garut regency, West Java, early on Tuesday morning.
Head of the Garut Police, Adj. Sr. Comr. Enjang Hasan Kurnia, said that the illegal immigrants were arrested as soon as they got off the bus at Cisancang village, Cibalong district.
“Initially, they planned to travel by foot for five kilometers along the Sancang Beach. From there they would go by a small boat to a cargo vessel that waited for them about 12 miles off the coast,” Enjang said in a telephone interview.
The cargo vessel, Enjang said, had been anchored there since Sunday. “It is not clear where it came from. It has not been detected yet as it was far from the beach,” he said.
Enjang believed that the immigrants were on their way to Australia. They departed from Kebayoran, Jakarta, and traveled through Bandung and Tasikmalaya before reaching Garut.
The police have also detained two fishermen from Tasikmalaya for their involvement in assisting the immigrants, he said.
During the arrest, however, the police were not able to capture the sponsors who arranged the journey for the immigrants.
The immigrants would later be handed over to the immigration office and the International Organization for Migration.
Such an arrest follows a similar operation in West Java early last month, which landed 49 illegal immigrants in detention when their boat was stranded at Pamayan waters near Cikalong district in Tasikmalaya.
West Java Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Martinus Sitompul said that the 49 immigrants arrested earlier were from Afghanistan and Iran, consisted of 37 men, six women and six children.
The immigrants were escorted by a 35-year-old woman who used a passport and visa under the name Bahay Ghoampour. “The woman was from Iran,” Martinus said.
The preliminary investigation suggested that the immigrants were aided by seven agents in East Nusa Tenggara. “They were headed to Australia,” Martinus said.
The immigrants were rescued by fishermen who saw the boat sinking about two kilometers off shore. The passengers were later taken to nearby Cipatujah hospital by the police.
Australia has been struggling to stem the flow of illegal immigrants entering its territorial waters, many of whom begin their journeys from Indonesia aboard wooden boats rented out by Indonesian fishermen, allegedly in cooperation with officers from the military and law enforcement.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees revealed last year that there were more than 2,800 refugees and asylum seekers in Indonesia, most of whom came from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.
A boat carrying about 250 illegal immigrants from Afghanistan, Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia sank in waters off Prigi, East Java, last December. The vessel was apparently on its way to Christmas Island, Australia.