Australia has called on Indonesia to better manage its borders, in a harsh rebuke to Jakarta’s demand for answers to allegations that Canberra paid off the crew of a migrant smuggling boat to return the vessel to Indonesian shores.
The stinging response on Monday by Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop came after her Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi expressed concern on Saturday that if the claims of payments having been made by Australia to people smugglers were true, it would represent “a new low for the way that the Australian government is handling this issue,” further calling for an explanation.
Statements that the captain and five crew of a boat carrying third world illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka were each paid 5,000 US dollars by an Australian immigration official to turn back to Indonesia were made to Indonesian police authorities on the country’s eastern Rote Island last week.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has refused to deny the allegations, with the opposition Labor Party writing to the auditor-general requesting an urgent investigation.
Bishop implied in an interview with the local Australian newspaper that Indonesia should be blamed for failing to properly control its coastal borders.
“I look forward to hearing the full results of Indonesia’s investigation of the people-smuggling crimes committed in Indonesia,” she said.
She also said that the measure should include “any breaches of passport and visa laws, and establishing whether the captains and crews of these boats are part of people-smuggling syndicates or are paid by them.”
Bishop added, “The best way for Indonesia to resolve any concerns it has about [Australia’s anti-migrant smuggling] Operation Sovereign Borders is for Indonesia to enforce sovereignty over its borders.”
“Operation Sovereign Borders is necessary because Indonesian boats with Indonesian crews are leaving Indonesia with the express intention of breaching our sovereignty, facilitated by illegal people-smuggling syndicates,” she concluded.
In an apparent response to the Indonesia’s inquiry about paying off people smugglers by Australian authorities, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Sunday that the key message for Jakarta was that his government was “prepared to do what’s necessary” to prevent unwanted boats arriving at Australian shores.
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