Indonesia raises concerns over Australia's handling of asylum seekers

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 26, 2015 11:54 PM

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia voiced concern on Friday that Australia had detained and returned 16 asylum seekers whose Indonesian boat was intercepted by the Australian navy a week ago without informing the Indonesian authorities.

The boat was seized last Friday within 200 meters of Christmas Island, a source with knowledge of the incident said.

Australian authorities held the asylum seekers, who hailed from Bangladesh, India and Nepal, for four days before sending them back to Indonesia, Indonesia's official Antara news agency reported.

"We are concerned when some country like Australia...rather than informing us and working with us, they took unilateral action and pushed back the boat," Hasan Kleib, the Indonesian foreign ministry's director general for multilateral affairs, told reporters.

"Talk to us, call our law enforcement on what to do with this, rather than just shifting the burden, shifting the responsibility back to Indonesia," Kleib said on the sidelines of a conference on irregular migration.

The United Nations and rights groups have criticized Australia over its hardline policy of intercepting asylum seekers who come by boat, has repeatedly refused to confirm or comment on the incident.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull met President Joko Widodo for the first time this month, hoping to mend ties strained by his predecessor, Tony Abbot, who had angered Jakarta with his policy of towing back to Indonesia vessels carrying asylum seekers, among other issues.

The United Nations and rights groups have criticized Australia over its hardline policy.

The Australian government has refused to confirm or comment on the latest incident. Kleib said it would not hurt relations between Indonesia and Australia.

(Reporting by Randy Fabi in JAKARTA and Jane Wardell in SYDNEY; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)