Australia has given Indonesian authorities the identity of a people smuggler who may be responsible for a boat that sank last week, drowning more than 350 asylum seekers. The government also is considering a request to take in some of the survivors.
The Australian government says it has identified the man who arranged passage for more than 400 migrants on a boat that sank in Indonesian waters. The government says the man, who is of Egyptian background, operates out of Jakarta. He is believed to be responsible for other people-smuggling operations.
More than 350 asylum seekers, mostly from Iraq and Afghanistan, drowned when the boat went down Friday. Just 44 survivors have been found.
Australian Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock told Australian ABC radio the government had passed the man's name on to Indonesian authorities. "He put 400 people on a boat 19 meters long that could only take 150 people," he said. "We've offered to Indonesia to accept by way of extradition all of the people smugglers and to try them."
Mr. Ruddock said Australia has told Jakarta several times that the man identified in the case is behind a people-smuggling ring.
The Australian government also is considering a request from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to accept some of the 44 survivors on humanitarian grounds.
Mr. Ruddock said that although the deaths are tragic, Australia must consider whether accepting the survivors might encourage more asylum seekers to attempt the journey to Australia. "What they have sought to do is to break our laws and come to Australia unlawfully, and if they are able to succeed in that it becomes a green light for others to think that they should do the same thing," he said.
Indonesia will hold an international meeting next month to try to stem the flow of asylum seekers through the region. Jakarta plans to invite Southeast Asian nations, Australia and refugee source countries such as Iran and Pakistan.