The Jakarta Post
Indonesia has once again called out Australia for its immigration policies in light of an incident involving a group of asylum seekers being forced to return to Indonesia after their boat was intercepted last week by Australian authorities when attempting to reach Australian shores.
Sixteen asylum seekers from India, Nepal and Bangladesh arrived in the East Nusa Tenggara provincial capital of Kupang on Thursday evening after a boat provided by the Australian Navy that they used to head back from Christmas Island to Indonesia sank off the coast of West Kupang earlier in the day.
The asylum seekers, along with an Indonesian crew member, were rescued by local residents and law enforcers before being taken to Kupang for questioning.
Hasan Kleib, the Foreign Ministry's director general for multilateral affairs, noted that it was Australia's sovereign right to push the boats back but said he was worried that the unilateral policy might erode regional efforts to address the migrant issue.
According to him, the only solution to unregulated migration was a transnational one, where source, transit and destination countries work together to prevent transnational organized crimes like people-smuggling and trafficking in persons.
Hasan took issue with Australia's continued use of the controversial turn-back-the-boats policy despite the country being a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees.
Indonesia is not a signatory country to the UN convention, but observes the convention's principle of non-refoulement by receiving arriving migrants, some of whom were turned back after failing to enter Australia.
'Our hope is that Australia will do the same, [...] especially since they are a signatory of the convention on refugees,' Hasan told reporters on Saturday.
In 2013, Australia's conservative government introduced tough immigration policies in a bid to stop an influx of migrants arriving by boat.
Asylum seekers arriving on boats are sent to Pacific camps while some vessels are turned back when it is safe to do so, or taken back to their countries of origin.
In June, a group of Indonesian citizens claimed they had received thousands of dollars from Australian authorities to transport 65 people from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar back to Indonesia following a failed attempt to bring the asylum seekers to Australian shores.
Hasan said he had held informal talks with Andrew Goledzinowski, Australia's ambassador on people-smuggling issues, about the Kupang push-back incident, but still demanded an official explanation from the Australian government.
With the recent influx of hundreds of thousands of migrants into Europe, Indonesia will soon have to find an alternative solution for the 13,000 migrants it is currently housing, including a few thousand Rohingya people it has agreed to temporarily accommodate until May next year.
The rising number of refugees in Kupang has forced local immigration officials to put 16 asylum seekers up in a hotel, as local detention centers have become overloaded with migrants.
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