News / Asia

Australia Denies Asylum Seeker Abuse Claims

FILE - Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison speaks during a press conference in Sydney.
FILE - Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison speaks during a press conference in Sydney.
Phil Mercer
Australia has denied fresh claims of asylum-seeker abuse by its navy while confirming for the first time that it is turning boats back to Indonesia.  Immigration Minister Scott Morrison broke months of secrecy about the government's navy-led Operation Sovereign Borders people-smuggling crackdown to concede that boats were being turned around.
 
A Somali asylum-seeker told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation he was sprayed in the eyes by navy officers with a substance that made them sting and he fell onto a hot engine pipe, burning his hand.  The alleged mistreatment is said to have taken place during an Australian maritime operation to force a boat carrying asylum seekers from Indonesia to return to Indonesian waters.
 
Earlier this month, a video emerged of other would-be migrants being treated for injuries that they said had been inflicted when they were forced to hold on to a hot boat engine by Australian sailors during a similar operation.
 
Australian officials have denied the abuse claims. 
 
Immigration minister Scott Morrison said he is sure Australian personnel have acted professionally.
 
“What I can tell you is that I have total confidence in our Navy our Customs and Border Protection Service to operate in accordance with their training and in accordance with the procedures for dealing with difficult situations. Now we're not running a taxi service out there… We are running a border security operation and if there is non-complying or threatening behavior then I expect that our people will do their job,” said Morrison.
 
The minister has confirmed for the first time that vessels ferrying asylum seekers into Australian waters have been turned around and sent back to Indonesia.
 
It is part of the conservative government’s election promise to stop a steady flow of asylum seekers arriving by sea, although ministers have been accused of being too secretive about the policy. 
 
No people-smuggling boats have arrived in Australia since December 19.  It is the first time in six years that January has passed without a single boat arrival.
 
The tow-back policy, however, has angered Indonesia, which considers it a violation of its sovereignty. Australia’s relations with Jakarta have been further strained since a spat broke out over phone-tapping late last year and have been further enflamed by recent revelations that the Australian navy strayed into Indonesian waters during asylum-seeker operations.

You May Like

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid