Australian officials paid to send asylum seekers to Indonesia

Sydney, June 10 (IANS) Australian officials paid thousands of dollars to the captain and crew of a boat carrying asylum seekers to send them to Indonesia, media reported on Wednesday.

Sixty five people from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, seeking asylum in New Zealand, had their boat intercepted by Australian navy and customs officials in late May and were sent to Indonesia, reported The Sydney Morning Herald.

According to the police chief of the Indonesian island of Rote, Hidayat, six crew members were given $5,000 each by an Australian customs officer called Agus, who spoke fluent Indonesian.

“I saw the money, the $5,000 was in $100 banknotes,” said the boat captain, Yohanes.

“The crew had $30,000 in total, which was wrapped in six black plastic bags,” he added.

A letter to the New Zealand government signed by all 65 asylum seekers on board says Australian officials paid the six crew members at least A$7,000 ($5,400) each.

“Then they take away our better boat and give two small boats that had just a little dry food like biscuits and chocolates, and they also give very little fuel, just 200 litres for four to five hour journey,” the letter says.

On May 31, they were given the two smaller boats and sent back to Indonesia.

The asylum seekers swam ashore after their boat hit rocks near Landuti island in the West Rote district of Indonesia, 500 km northeast of the Australian coast.

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