Australia turns away boat carrying 65 immigrants

Sydney, June 2 (IANS/EFE) Australian authorities allegedly turned back a boat carrying 65 illegal immigrants, including four women and three children, after it crashed into a reef, media reported on Tuesday.

The Indonesian police said the boat was heading towards New Zealand and carrying 54 citizens from Sri Lanka, 10 from Bangladesh, one from Myammar and five crew members.

Indonesian police official Hidayat, of the Rote Island, told ABC that the ship that crashed into a reef near Landuti Island was intercepted by Australian authorities after it set off from West Java on May 5.

The immigrants said the authorities transferred them to a wooden boat and gave them food, fuel and life jackets before escorting the boat to Indonesian waters.

The immigrants, who were found by a fishing vessel on Monday, are currently being held on Rote Island off West Timor.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is yet to comment on the incident that occurred weeks after a humanitarian crisis in Southeast Asia led Malaysia and Indonesia to put an end to the practice of returning boats carrying illegal immigrants to their countries of origin.

Australia has a strict policy on illegal immigration that includes turning back ships carrying asylum seekers and putting them in detention centres in third countries while their asylum petitions are being processed.

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