Boat people may be allowed
to pass RI waters

National Police chief Gen. Sutarman says the force may let boat people pass through Indonesia’s waters as they attempt to reach Australia, following the suspension of people-smuggling cooperation between both countries.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has ordered the suspension following revelations that Australian spies had attempted to tap his cell phone conversations with members of his inner circle in 2009.

Speaking after an event on Monday, Sutarman said that in regards to the President’s order, the police would not prevent boat people from reaching Christmas Island in Australia.

“We must crackdown on any law violations in the country. But if a person has a purpose to go there [Christmas Island], it does not come under our authority. We no longer have cooperation [on boat people],” he said at National Police headquarters in South Jakarta.

Indonesia’s coastal areas, particularly those of North Sumatra and West Java, have become popular transit points for Middle Eastern and African boat people to reach Australia.

On many occasions, local fishermen have assisted illegal activities by selling their boats to people smugglers and migrants.

In the last five years, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has seen the number of refugees and asylum seekers in Indonesia seeking UNHCR assistance increase from 385 in 2008 to 7,218 last year.

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