News / Asia

Australia Under Fire Over Asylum Policy After Indonesian Boat Sinks

A rescuer carries a child after a boat carrying asylum seekers sank off Java island, in Cianjur, West Java, Indonesia, July 24, 2013.
A rescuer carries a child after a boat carrying asylum seekers sank off Java island, in Cianjur, West Java, Indonesia, July 24, 2013.
TEXT SIZE - +
Henry Ridgwell
— Indonesian authorities say 189 asylum seekers were rescued from a sinking boat off the coast Wednesday. Coast guard officials say at least nine people died. The refugees were trying to reach Christmas Island, part of Australia, which has just implemented a new policy blocking asylum applications for migrants arriving by boat. 

Exhausted and dehydrated, survivors of the voyage were given shelter Wednesday in the village of Cidaun on West Java in Indonesia. Among them were many children and pregnant women.

Most survivors said they were from Iraq, Iran and Sri Lanka. Their boat had set off from Papua New Guinea heading for the Australian territory of Christmas Island.

  • Rescue workers walk along the beach as they search for suspected asylum seekers who were on a boat that capsized, Sukapura beach in West Java, Indonesia, July 25, 2013.
  • A suspected asylum seeker cries after finding out about the death of her husband, at Jayanti beach clinic in West Java, Indonesia, July 24, 2013.
  • Fishermen hold bodies of children who were suspected asylum seekers on a boat that capsized after hitting a reef, July 24, 2013.
  • A rescuer carries a child after a boat carrying asylum seekers sank off West Java, Indonesia, July 24, 2013. 
  • Suspected asylum seekers that were on a boat that capsized July 23 after hitting a reef, arrive at Jayanti beach, West Java province, Indonesia, July 24, 2013. 
  • Suspected asylum seekers who were on a boat that capsized July 23, 2013, after hitting a reef, sit at a temporary shelter near Jayanti beach, West Java, Indonesia, July 24, 2013. 
  • Rescuers carry the body of a victim killed after a boat carrying asylum seekers sank off West Java, Indonesia, July 24, 2013. 
  • A police officer carries a child who appears to be unconscious after a boat carrying asylum seekers sank off  West Java, Indonesia, July 24, 2013. 

Last week, Australia signed an agreement stating that asylum seekers who arrive by boat will not be granted settlement in Australia, even if they qualify as refugees, but instead will be sent to Papua New Guinea. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Tuesday’s shipwreck proves the need for a tough policy.

“This underlines the need for policy changes in Australia on asylum seekers, which sends a very clear message to people smugglers to stop sending people by boat to Australia. We are seeing too many drownings, we are seeing too many sinkings, too many people being lost at sea.”  

Watch An earlier boat carrying migrants arrived on Christmas Island July 20. The asylum seekers were the first to have their applications processed in Papua New Guinea under the new deal.

The agreement has prompted a wave of protest. Livio Zilli is a refugee lawyer from Amnesty International.

Watch Henry Ridgwell's related report:

Migrants Boat Sinks Off Indonesia; Australia Criticized Over Asylum Policyi
X
July 25, 2013
Indonesian authorities say 189 asylum seekers were rescued from a sinking boat off the coast Wednesday. Coast guard officials say at least nine people died. The refugees were trying to reach Christmas Island, part of Australia, which has just implemented a new policy blocking asylum applications for migrants arriving by boat. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, human rights groups have widely criticized the Australian policy.

“They will be apparently detained indefinitely, we don’t know how long that whole process will last. So we are very concerned for the individuals. Secondly we are concerned because effectively Australia is cherry-picking its international obligations.”

The governor of Oro Province in Papua New Guinea, Gary Juffa, questioned what his country is getting from the deal.

“By accepting this are we really doing as we are told by the Australian government or are we doing this because we feel that we’re assisting Australia?  If so, what is the cost, what is the price, what is the benefit?”

Australia will fund a major expansion of the Manus detention center on Papua New Guinea. A recent U.N. report found major shortcomings at the site.
Livio Zilli of Amnesty says Australia must change course.

 “Everyone who arrives, no matter how they arrive to Australia or on Australian shores should be given effective access to refugee status procedures in the Australian mainland.”

Australia says more than 15,000 asylum seekers have arrived by boat on Australian territory this year. Since 2001, around 1,000 people have died making the crossing.

The Australian government has produced online videos in several languages -- including Farsi and Vietnamese among others -- warning migrants that they will not be settled in Australia if they arrive by boat.

You May Like

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
July 26, 2013 1:10 AM
I feel like back up Austrarian administration. It has been probiding people seeking asylum with refuges and identifications qualifying to live in Australian mainland. Australia is so generous to migrants because it was established by migrants by itself. But I heard government budget does not allow it to keep care for a lot of migrants. I also could understand Papua New Guinea's struggle to deal with migrants even with some financial help from Australia. First of all, those countries which produce refugees are primarily responsible for this matter. I hope their home countries return to peaceful and wealthy lands as early as possible.


by: Flavian Hardcastle
July 25, 2013 7:25 PM
It's hard to justify an immigration system that encourages people to jump on rickety boats by the hundreds and attempt to sail the open sea. Seven children died in this most recent disaster.

People should be deterred from doing that, not rewarded.

Australia is providing refuge to asylum seekers. It's just that those who arrive by boat will get their refuge in Papua New Guinea rather than Australia (which is really what they're paying the people smugglers for, let's face it).


by: Andrew Johnson from: Sydney Australia
July 25, 2013 2:39 AM
Papuan refugees have been denied help for decades ever since America asked the United Nations to occupy the colony of West New Guinea and to appoint Indonesia as the administrator of the colony under UN General Assembly resolution 1752 (XVII)

It's fine to becry the plight of people from the middle-east, but what about the locals? What about the 400,000 West Papuan's who have already been killed and the political prisoners being held by Indonesia while BP mines their LNG and America mines their gold and copper?

West Papua is a UN trust territory, not only a non-self-governing territory entitled to self-determination but as a trust territory the UN has a LEGAL duty to protect West Papua's human rights including self-determination under article 76 of the UN Charter. The ONLY REASON the UN committees have not got West Papua on their lists is because neither Ban Ki-moon nor an UN member has yet told the UN Trusteeship Council about General Assembly resolution 1752 (XVII).

When will we show the same level of concern for the Pacific peoples of Papua as we do for the refugees from Iran and other middle eastern nations?


by: European from: South EU
July 24, 2013 10:29 PM
Australia shuld be ashamed for its aparthaid and racist policies on immigration and stoping poor refugees to its shores just because they are dark complacted skin or maybe a diffrent religion or kreed....I am ashemed that my ancestors are Australian and I will never travel to Australia on bussnis or pleasure again with my family or alone

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid