Live blog of the media reports on the “cash for turnbacks” crisis. Check back regularly for updates.
This blog is to collate the media reports surrounding the wrecking of two asylum seekers boats on a reef off Rote Island, Indonesia.
A boat having been engaged by Border Protection was reported on May 2, 2015 by The West Australian. Claims emerged weeks later that the people smuggler crew had been stopped by Australia officials and paid cash to take their human cargo back to Indonesia in two new boats on May 26, 2015. The first media reports of the shipwreck began to emerge from June, 1, 2015.
Initially, the Australia Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop denied cash was paid. However, the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott refused to confirm or deny the event had taken place citing “operational matters”. It was a surprising revelation as up until this point the Abbott Government had refused to comment on operations at sea involving asylum seeker boats. It appeared two ministers had broken that policy.
The New Zealand Prime Minister John Key later confirmed that the original boat’s destination was his country. Reports also surfaced that the boat was in international waters when stopped by Australia.
As per Australian Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995, Division 73, people smuggling is illegal and carries a penalty of gaol or 1,000 penalty units or both. However, proceedings against a perpetrator cannot commence without the Attorney-General’s consent.
(February 5, 2016) – Senate inquiry, Canberra
The inquiry called for on June 24, 2015, begins
- Ben Doherty reported, “The operational commander of Australian Border Force will face questions from the Senate on Friday on whether the Australian government paid Indonesian people smugglers more than $30,000 to turn their boat around.”: Border Force head to face questions on alleged payment to people smugglers.
- Nicole Hasham reported, “The boat was stocked with provisions and the crew was skilled. When Australian officials boarded, the vessel was not in distress, and had not asked for help. Authorities mistreated the passengers, then handed over $US32,000 ($A44,500) to make the problem go away. Or perhaps the boat was in desperate straits and called for help. The weather was rough and forecast to worsen; without help, the occupants may have died. Australian officials boarded and kept everyone safe. Money may or may not have changed hands. These are two conflicting accounts by asylum seekers and the government of what occurred on the high seas in May last year, when passengers and Indonesian police claim Australian officials bribed the crew of a boat of asylum seekers to return to Indonesia.”: Conflicting stories at cash-for-turnbacks inquiry.
(December 2, 2015) – Court proceedings, Indonesia
Trial of Captain Yohanis Humiang
- Guardian Australia reported, “The captain of an asylum-seeker boat allegedly intercepted by the Australian navy has told a court how he negotiated a hefty payment to take the migrants back to Indonesia to avoid going home “empty-handed”. The Indonesian captain, Yohanis Humiang, 35, is on trial charged with people-smuggling after Australian officials allegedly stopped his boat in May and paid him and his crew US$32,000 to return to Indonesia.”: Indonesian captain makes US$32,000 deal to return asylum seekers, court hears.
(November 8, 2015) – Government operates within the law
‘We’ve done what it takes to stop the boats’
(November 5, 2015) – People smugglers go on trial
Alleged payments will not be evidence
- Jewel Topsfield and Amilia Rosa reported, “Rote Island: More than $US30,000 ($42,000) allegedly paid to people smugglers by Australian officials to return their boat to Indonesia will not be presented as evidence in the men’s trial. An Indonesian police investigation in June found six crew members had been paid between $US5000 and $US6000 to turn back 65 asylum seekers headed for New Zealand. The prosecution had wanted to present “alleged bribery money from the Australian government” in court as further evidence of people-smuggling, but Prosecutor Alexander Sele said the police had insisted the crew had not committed a crime when they accepted the payments from the Australian officials.”: People smuggler cash scandal: Alleged payments will not be evidence in trial.
(October 30, 2015) – Amnesty’s ‘ideological attack’
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton claims Amnesty bullying government
- James Massola and Latika Bourke reported, “Liberal elder Philip Ruddock has distanced himself from Immigration Minister Peter Dutton’s attack on Amnesty International, saying he has “a lot of time” for the human rights organisation. Mr Ruddock is the longest-serving MP in Parliament and a long-time supporter of Amnesty, despite being at odds with it during his own stint as immigration minister in the Howard government and at one point being asked to stop wearing his Amnesty lapel badge.”: Peter Dutton’s attack on Amnesty International draws fire from his own side.
(October 29, 2015) – Amnesty concludes transnational crime
- Amnesty Australia reported, “On 5 May 2015, a boat departed Pelabuhan Ratu in Indonesia, with the aim of reaching New Zealand. On board were six crew and 65 passengers. The passengers, who were from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar, included 58 men, four women (one of whom was pregnant), two seven-year-old children, and a one-year-old child. All of the adult passengers described themselves as asylum-seekers. They had paid unnamed private individuals an
average of 4,000 USD for the voyage. “: By Hook or By Crook.
- Amnesty Australia reported, “Our new report, By Hook or By Crook: Australia’s Abuse of Asylum Seekers at Sea, reveals damning evidence of Australian officials paying boat crews to return people seeking asylum to Indonesia and abusive treatment of the women, men and children on board.”: Report: Evidence of public officials’ involvement in criminal activity.
- Amnesty Australia wrote, “Far from saving lives and stopping people smuggling, we have strong evidence that Operation Sovereign Borders officials have endangered and abused people seeking asylum and illegally paid for people smuggling.”: Demand a Royal Commission into Operation Sovereign Borders.
Government denies engaging in people smuggling
- Michelle Grattan wrote, “An Amnesty International investigation has found Australian officials may have paid money to the crew of a boat intercepted in July – which would be the second such alleged incident. The claim of a possible second payment comes as Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the pregnant Somali woman known as Abyan, who sought an abortion after she was allegedly raped on Nauru, is being brought to Australia a second time. As publicity centres on Nauru, its government has lashed out at the Australian media, accusing it of “an air of racial superiority”.”: Amnesty alleges criminal activity in border control.
- Shalailah Medhora reported, “The federal government will not be “bullied” into watering down its hardline border protection policies by advocates such as Amnesty International, the immigration minister, Peter Dutton, said, after the human rights group criticised border force staff for paying people smugglers to turn asylum boats around.”: Coalition will not be ‘bullied’ on border protection, says Peter Dutton.”: Coalition will not be ‘bullied’ on border protection, says Peter Dutton.
- Karen Barlow reported, “Canberra — A new report by Amnesty International has accused Australian border officials of improperly detaining and roughly handling asylum seekers, while alleging intelligence officials may have been involved in transnational crime by allegedly paying off people smugglers. The report “By Hook or by Crook- Australia’s Abuse of Asylum Seekers at Sea”, released overnight, further investigates allegations raised in June this year that, in May, Australian officials paid the crew of an asylum seeker boat more than US$30,000 to take it back to Indonesia.”: Amnesty report: New claims of asylum seeker ‘ill-treatment’.
- Ben Doherty reported, “Australian government officials may have engaged in people smuggling, by allegedly paying the crew of an asylum seeker boat to return its passengers to Indonesia, an Amnesty International investigation has found. In May this year, the 65 passengers and six crew of an asylum seeker boat bound for New Zealand said they were intercepted by an Australian naval ship and an Australian Border Force vessel in international waters.”: Australian officials paid asylum seeker boat crew, Amnesty investigation alleges.
- Mark Rivett-Carnac reported, “The Australian government broke international law by paying people smugglers thousands of dollars to tow boats filled with asylum seekers away from its shores, according to new report by Amnesty International. The human-rights group investigated incidents from May and July when migrant boats were turned away from Australia and returned to Indonesia. In both occasions, Amnesty claims asylum seekers’ lives were endangered.”: Australia paid people smugglers to tow away migrant boats, finds Amnesty investigation.
New Zealand pressed to confirm no involvement
- Otago Daily Times reported, “Evidence strongly suggests that Australian officials paid people smugglers who were heading for New Zealand in a boat with asylum seekers to turn back to Indonesia, Amnesty International says. Labour today called on Prime Minister John Key to confirm that New Zealand had no knowledge of the payments, or was in any way involved, while the Greens want him to rule out supporting Australia’s bid for a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council. “: PM pressed over people smuggling claim.
Indonesia calls for end of push-back policy
- Jewel Topsfield, Karuni Rompies, Amilia Rosa and Jane Lee reported, “Jakarta: A member of President Joko Widodo’s ruling party has called on the Indonesian government to “send a strong protest” after a report found Australian officials paid people smugglers to return to Indonesia. Charles Honoris, a member of the Indonesian House of Representatives, also renewed calls for Australia to abandon its controversial boat push-back policy and said he hoped the Australian government would be more transparent under the new Prime Minister.”: People-smuggler cash scandal: Indonesian MP calls for Australia to abandon push-back policy.
(August 6, 2015) – Saving lives
Saved by cash
- Nicole Hasham reported, “Border officials saved the lives of asylum seekers on a boat whose crew was allegedly paid to return to Indonesia, the head of Australia’s border security operations has revealed, saying the vessel was struggling in bad weather and called for help. The statement by Major General Andrew Bottrell indirectly refutes claims by Indonesian police that Australian authorities sent the distressed boat back on a “suicide mission”.”: Border officials saved lives of asylum seekers on boat they allegedly paid to turn back, says Operation Sovereign Borders commander.
(July 20, 2015) – AFP essential priority
Offence under Australian law
- Paul Farrell reported, “A request made by a Greens senator to the Australian federal police to investigate allegations that people smugglers were paid by Australian officials was regarded by the AFP as an essential priority, documents show.”: Claims Australia paid people smugglers seen as ‘essential priority’ by police.
New boat arrives off Dampier, Western Australia
- Calla Wahlquist reported, “A small boat believed to be carrying asylum seekers has been spotted near the coast of Western Australia. The boat was sighted around dawn on Monday by the crew of an oil tanker near Dampier on the Pilbara coast, about 1,500km north of Perth. The tanker was monitoring an oil rig operated by engineering company Modec on the north-west shelf, about 78 nautical miles, or 145km, from the coast. Gary Kennedy, Modec’s operations manager in Australia, told Guardian Australia that the crew of the tanker noticed the small boat when it went inside the 500 metre exclusion zone around the oil rig.”: Suspected asylum seeker boat spotted near the coast of Western Australia.
(June 24, 2015) – Senate inquiry to launch
Breaking the Lombok agreement
- Jewel Topsfield, Karuni Rompies and Sarah Whyte reported, “The Australian Senate will launch an inquiry into the alleged payments to people smugglers after the Abbott government refused to hand over documents into the claims, citing “public interest immunity”. The inquiry, supported by Labor, will require the government to declare whether any Australian official paid money to anyone on board a vessel from September 2013. If the allegations are true, it will also demand information on who authorised the payments and whether they were legal under both domestic and international law. The vote comes as Indonesia accused Australia of breaching an agreement on defence, intelligence and border security if it paid people smugglers to return asylum seekers to Indonesia.”: Senate to launch inquiry into people smuggler payment claims.
- Radio New Zealand reported, “The Senate has voted to establish a parliamentary inquiry into payments made by Australian government officials to boat crew members and people traffickers. The inquiry was moved by the Greens after the Australian government refused to comply with an Order to Produce Documents and will report back to the Senate in September.”: Australian govt faces inquiry into “bribe” payments.
— 📣Margo Kingston💧🔥 (@margokingston1) June 24, 2015
(June 20, 2015) – Counter allegations
Labor calls for full story
- Guardian Australia reported, “Labor says the government must come clean on payments to people smugglers to restore relations with Indonesia. Indonesia’s foreign affairs ministry claims to have evidence Australian officials paid $30,000 to five crew members to turn their boat around, but says it is yet to receive any clarification about this. The opposition’s foreign affairs spokeswoman, Tanya Plibersek, said the prime minister, Tony Abbott, owed a full explanation to Indonesia and the Australian people.”: Labor says Abbott must address people smuggler pay claim to placate Indonesia.
Tony Abbott declares boats stopped
- Adam Gartrell reported, “Prime Minister Tony Abbott has come closer than ever to admitting his government paid people smugglers to take boats back to Indonesia. Mr Abbott has steadfastly refused to comment on the allegations that first surfaced in Fairfax Media reports a fortnight ago, citing “operational” concerns. But in a speech to the NSW Liberal Party faithful in Sydney on Saturday, Mr Abbott attacked Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s handling of the allegations – and in the process, came perilously close to admitting they were true. “On Monday, Mr Shorten attacked us for allegedly doing something to turn around boats, which it turned out that he had done exactly the same,” Mr Abbott said. “Only it didn’t work when they tried to do it. Because they never turned around a single boat.””: Tony Abbott comes close to admitting people smuggler payments.
— David Marler (@Qldaah) June 20, 2015
Bribery claims all round
- Sky News Australia reported, “Indonesia says a letter from Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has given them no indication of whether or not Australia paid cash to an asylum boat crew to turn around. Ms Bishop’s correspondence has been handed to counterpart Retno Marsudi by Ambassador Paul Grigson in Jakarta.”: Bishop letter gives ‘no clarification’.
- Nine News Australia reported, “People smugglers bribed Indonesian police to allow the departure of the asylum-seeker boat whose crew were allegedly paid by Australian officials to turn back, it’s been reported.”: People smugglers bribed Indonesian police before being paid to turn back by Australians: report.
- 7News Yahoo7 reported, “Jakarta (AFP) – Indonesia insisted Friday it believed Australia paid a boatload of asylum seekers to turn back from its shores after Canberra had repeatedly refused demands for a clarification on the issue, ratcheting up tensions between the two countries.”: Indonesia insists Australia pays people smugglers to turn back.
Comment – Paul Bongiorno
- Paul Bongiorno wrote, “No one could put it better as a description of the Abbott government’s way of doing business. “By hook or by crook” was the phrase the prime minister came back to three times in a radio interview. He was referring to “stopping the boats” but you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to pick the MO of this perpetrator at other crime scenes.”: Tony Abbott baits hooks and pays crooks.
Refugee policies trash reputation
- Tom Allard and Sarah Whyte wrote, “Australia’s treatment of desperate refugees is giving us a reputation as a self-interested, uncaring nation.”: Refugee policies give Australia’s global reputation a beating.
- Alan Austin wrote, “For the world’s media which feed off the pratfalls and humiliations of the notorious, Australia and Tony Abbott have been the gift that keeps on giving. Unfortunately, the prime ministerial blunders are covered extensively by the prestigious press as well.”: Australia ‘morally bereft’ — the view worldwide.
Claims Indonesian officials paid to let boat leave
- Greg Sheridan reported, “People-smugglers bribed Indonesian police to allow the departure of the asylum-seeker boat that has provoked a diplomatic storm since it was intercepted at sea by Australian Customs and the navy late last month, according to sources.”: Boat bribery row escalates.
- Greg Sheridan wrote, “Local Indonesian police were bribed by people-smugglers to allow a boat with 65 asylum-seekers on board, which is at the centre of controversy between Canberra and Jakarta, to leave Indonesia. “: Critics miss the boat on people smuggling debate.
(June 19, 2015) – Justifying paying people smugglers
- Guardian Australia reported, “The foreign minister, Julie Bishop has given no explanation of whether Australian officials paid the crew of a boat carrying asylum seekers in correspondence sent to Indonesia, its foreign ministry spokesman has said.”: Julie Bishop letter fails to address claims people smugglers paid, says Indonesia.
- Jewel Topsfield and Karuni Rompies reported, “Jakarta: The Indonesian government says it can’t be blamed for thinking an Australian official paid people smugglers after the Australian government failed to provide any new information. Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said Indonesia had asked for clarification in the hope it would get further information that would provide them with a better understanding of what occurred.”: Australian ambassador meets Indonesian Foreign Minister over people-smuggling cash claims.
- George Roberts reported, “Indonesia’s foreign ministry says it believes illegal payments were made by Australia to the crew of a people-smuggling boat. Australia’s ambassador to Indonesia, Paul Grigson, met with Indonesia’s foreign minister, Retno Marsudi, on Friday.”: Indonesia believes Australia made ‘illicit payments’ to crew of people smuggling boat, foreign ministry says.
- DW Deutsche Welle reported, “The government in Canberra is refusing to be drawn on allegations that Australian authorities paid people smugglers over $30,000 US (26,500 euros) to turn their boat back to Indonesia. Allegations emerged last week that Australian authorities intercepted a boat carrying 65 refugees in May and transferred the passengers onto two boats to be turned around.”: Bribery allegations cast a shadow on Australia’s relationship with Indonesia.
Responsibility and legalities
- Simon Longstaff wrote, “The federal government has neither confirmed nor denied allegations that persons, acting under the authority of the Australian government, have paid people smugglers to return asylum seekers to Indonesia – effectively adding these smugglers to the national payroll of people working to ensure that Australia’s borders are not breached.”: Can we justify paying people smugglers to go back to Indonesia?
- Asian Correspondent reported, “Two migrants who were on a people-smuggling boat at the center of claims Australia’s navy paid the crew to turn back to Indonesia say they saw the money handed over. The allegation of payments to people smugglers has strained relations between Indonesia and Australia, which has a policy of turning back any migrants who arrive by boat.””: Migrants say they saw Australian navy pay off people smugglers.
— 3AW Melbourne (@3AW693) June 18, 2015
Path of vessels
— David Marler (@Qldaah) June 19, 2015
— jeremy b williams 💉💉💉 (@jeremybwilliams) June 18, 2015
— Stan Steam (@StanSteam2) June 19, 2015
It's about saving lives. pic.twitter.com/ADUTdzuHYL
— The Cathy Wilcox (@cathywilcox1) June 19, 2015
(June 18, 2015) – International waters intercept
Fishermen would take up people smuggler trade
Trouble in relations
- Abdul Khalik and Andreyka Natalegawa reported, “Sydney/Jakarta. The future of Indonesian-Australian relations have plunged in to a labyrinth of uncertainty as allegations of Australian misconduct in handling asylum seekers prompts international relations experts to call for new methods of engagement between the neighboring countries.”: A bridge over troubled water between Indonesia and Australia.
No cash for turnbacks under Julia Gillard
- Latika Bourke reported, “Former prime minister Julia Gillard says Labor never turned back asylum seeker boats but “absolutely” worked to prevent people smuggling when asked if her government ever paid boat crew. In the face of tough questioning on the BBC’s Hardtalk program in London overnight, Ms Gillard refused to directly answer questions about whether cash had ever been paid, possibly for intelligence under her government.”: Julia Gillard denies paying to turn back boats.
- Shalailah Medhora reported, “Former prime minister Julia Gillard says no boats carrying asylum seekers were paid to turn back while she was in power, weighing in on claims that payments were made to people smugglers. “We didn’t have the policy of turning the boats around, so no, Labor did not operate the policy it is now asserted,” she told BBC’s Hardtalk program. But she admitted that her government had engaged in so-called “disruption activity” to stop people smugglers leaving Indonesia.”: Julia Gillard: no asylum-seeker boats were paid to turn back when I was PM.
How Australia engaged the boat
- George Roberts and Matthew Doran reported, “Asylum seekers from a boat whose crew was allegedly paid thousands of dollars by Australian authorities to return to Indonesia have questioned why they were intercepted in international waters. The claims came as the ABC obtained images showing the moment Australian authorities intercepted the boat. Two asylum seekers from the boat, who were able to speak a mixture of English and Bahasa Indonesia, say their global positioning system (GPS) showed they were in international waters when they were intercepted and turned around by Australian Customs and the Navy.”: Asylum seekers on boat at centre of turn-back payment allegations ask why they were intercepted in international waters.
What happened to the rest of the boat?
— Stan Steam (@StanSteam2) June 17, 2015
(June 17, 2015) – Show us the Benjamins
- Sarah Whyte and David Wroe reported, “European countries in the midst of a growing asylum seeker crisis have been “surprised” and “concerned” at the allegation that the Australian government has paid people smugglers, a senior diplomatic source has said. The comment comes as the Greens prepare to move a parliamentary inquiry into the people smuggling claims on Thursday after the Abbott government refused to produce documents on the allegations, citing public immunity.”: European countries say they are ‘concerned’ and ‘surprised’ at payment allegations.
- Shalailah Medhora reported, “The government has refused to hand over documents relating to allegations of payments made to people smugglers, arguing that doing so would weaken national security.”: Coalition defies Senate by refusing to hand over people smuggler documents.
Govt has refused to give docs to the Senate regarding payments for people trafficking. Shameful. Will the Senate consider this contempt?
— 💚🌏 Sarah Hanson-Young (@sarahinthesen8) June 17, 2015
No regrets Julie Bishop
- Dylan Amirio reported, “House of Representatives member Hanafi Rais has said that calmly engaging in political communication is the best way for Indonesia and Australia to resolve the increasingly their heated dispute over asylum seekers.”: Calm political communication best solution to RI-Oz asylum seeker tension: Lawmaker.
Second supplied vessel ran out of fuel
- George Roberts reported, “Indonesian police have provided new details about how Australian authorities allegedly intercepted an asylum seeker boat, transferred the passengers onto two boats and sent them back to Indonesia. One of the boats provided by Australia allegedly ran out of fuel during the journey and the asylum seekers had to climb onto the other boat which later crashed onto a reef.”: Indonesian police documents detail boat turnback and alleged payments to people smuggling crew.
- Shalailah Medhora reported, “New details have emerged about the voyage taken by people smugglers at the heart of allegations about payments by Australian authorities, following the release of photos of the cash alleged to have been paid.”: People smugglers paid by Australian spy, Indonesia police documents allege.
- Jewel Topsfield reported, “Kupang, Indonesia: From the reef on Landu Island in West Rote, where the wooden vessel Kanak had run aground on rocks on May 31, the villagers on shore were so far away they looked like pygmies.”: Asylum seekers ask why Australia did not let them go to New Zealand.
Australian – Indonesian relationship breaking down
- The Jakarta Globe reported: Kalla threatens Australia with graft charges in asylum seeker row.
Scott Morrison responds to allegations
Indonesia shows proof of bribery
- Jewel Topsfield and Amilia Rosa reported, “Kupang, Indonesia: Photographs of thousands of US dollars handed to six people smugglers have been provided to Fairfax Media, which Indonesian police say is proof of bribery by Australian officials.”: People smuggler cash: Stacks police say were paid to send asylum seekers on a ‘suicide mission’.
- Guardian Australia reported, “Indonesian police have provided photos of cash allegedly paid to people smugglers amid reports an Australian spy facilitated the payment. General Endang Sunjaya, police chief of Nusa Tenggara Timur province, provided photos of the cash to Fairfax Media, which he said was given to six crew members by an Australian official.”: Indonesian police show off alleged ‘people smuggler bribes’ from Australia.
- Sarah Whyte reported, “The United Nations refugee agency says it would be “shocked” if any government had handed over money to people smugglers, saying cooperating with criminal gangs is not going to solve the problem of global displacement. The Indonesian representative for UNHCR Thomas Vargas told Fairfax Media that the organisation had spoken to the asylum seekers who claim Australian authorities handed over US$5000 in cash to the crew on board.”: UN refugee agency ‘shocked’ if government paid people smugglers.
— Ian Law (@kinabalu1955) June 16, 2015
(June 16, 2015) – Stop the bribes
Thomas Vargas details interview with asylum seekers
- Bagus BT Saragih and Ina Parlina reported, “The government has refused to bow to Australia’s demand to step up its border protection amid an escalating war of words following Canberra’s refusal to deny that Australian authorities had paid people-smugglers to return to Indonesia.”: Jakarta keeps cool over boat ‘bribe’ claims.
— 7NEWS Sydney (@7NewsSydney) June 16, 2015
Senate – Documents relating to payments
Senate has just ordered the Govt to table docs relating to payments made to ppl smugglers. They have 24hours to comply.
— 💚🌏 Sarah Hanson-Young (@sarahinthesen8) June 16, 2015
The Senate has passed a Greens motion 32-to-26 ordering documents relating to allegations of paying people smugglers: pic.twitter.com/21hzcEcx61
— Karen Barlow (@KJBar) June 16, 2015
- Shalailah Medhora reported, “Labor has never paid crew members to turn back asylum seeker boats, opposition leader Bill Shorten has said, but the party remains evasive on whether Australian spies ever paid people smugglers.”: Labor never paid crew members to turn back boats, says Bill Shorten.
- Matthew Knott reported, “Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has vowed to continue pressing the Abbott government to answer whether it paid people smugglers to return to Indonesia, while refusing to deny Labor made payments to people involved in people-smuggling rings when in office.”: ‘Labor did not pay people smugglers to turn around boats’: Bill Shorten.
- Daniel Hurst reported, “Labor has stepped back from its parliamentary pursuit of the Abbott government over alleged payments to people smugglers after conceding money might have changed hands in Indonesia during the previous government.”: People smuggler payment claims: Labor backs away from pursuit of Coalition.
— 7NEWS Sydney (@7NewsSydney) June 16, 2015
MPs tight lipped
- Natalie Kotsios reported, “COALITION minister Sussan Ley and independent MP Cathy McGowan have refused to discuss allegations the federal government paid people smugglers to turn boats back to Indonesia.”: Ministers quiet on people smuggling.
Former officer Andrew Wilke MP
- Sky News Australia reported, “A former intelligence analyst says the practice of paying cash to people smugglers is a recent and unhelpful development. The Abbott government is facing calls to clarify reports Australian officials paid $US30,000 to people smugglers to return to Indonesia. Independent MP Andrew Wilkie, a former officer with the Office of National Assessments, said he was aware of Australian involvement in ‘disruption operations’ over a decade ago.”: Wilkie says cash to people smugglers is new.
Senator David Leyonhjelm
- Guardian Australia reported, “David Leyonhjelm, New South Wales senator for the Liberal Democratic party, says people smugglers accepting payment to turn their boats back makes a certain amount of sense if the alternative is five to 10 years in an Australian prison.”: People smugglers taking money to turn back boats makes ‘certain amount of sense’ says David Leyonhjelm.
Comment – The Age
- The Age wrote, “What murky and fetid waters has the Abbott government sailed this nation into now? When Fairfax Media reported claims last week by an Indonesian police chief and others that Australian authorities had paid the crew of a people-smuggling vessel thousands of dollars to turn around and head back to Indonesia, it at first seemed at first too preposterous to be true.”: Mr Abbott’s morally bankrupt boat business.
- Shalailah Medhora reported, “‘I am in the business of building a strong relationship … not aggravating things,’ prime minister says, adding that stopping the boats has improved ties”: Tony Abbott accuses media of ‘promoting discord’ with Indonesia.
Terri Butler MP and Senator John Williams
Labor paid people smugglers but not for turnbacks
- Sarah Whyte and David Wroe reported, “Cash payments have been made to members of Indonesian people-smuggling rings by Australian intelligence officials for at least the past four years – including under the former Labor government, Fairfax Media has learnt. Multiple sources have said that such payments have been part of successive governments’ tactics, though not always as part of boat turnbacks, which were not used by the previous government.”: Asylum boat turnbacks: Australia paid people smugglers under former Labor government.
- Cameron Stewart and Rowan Callick reported, “Australian spies and police working inside Indonesia have been involved in a secret war against people-smugglers since 2001, including using paid informers to help destroy the trade.”: Spies, police have paid Indonesian informers for years.
- Sky News Australia reported, “Labor is refusing to comment on reports people smugglers were given cash payments in 2010 when it was in government. Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh told Sky News, Labor did not pay to turn boats around but refused to say if people smugglers were paid in any circumstances.”: Labor may have also paid people smugglers.
Professor Don Rothwell
Indonesia labels payments ‘bribes’
- Jewel Topsfield, Sarah Whyte and David Wroe reported, “Indonesia’s vice-president Jusuf Kalla has said that paying off people smugglers – the claim made against Australian officials – amounts to bribery, in an escalation of diplomatic tensions.”: Indonesian vice-president Jusuf Kalla calls smuggler payments ‘bribes’.
- SBS News reported, “Australia’s refusal to respond frankly to claims people smugglers were paid to turn boats back has annoyed Jakarta, which has demanded the allegations be taken seriously. Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi personally sought an explanation from Australia’s ambassador on Saturday.”: Jakarta ‘shocked’ by Bishop’s boat blaming.
- Bagus BT Saragih reported, “A survey released on Tuesday revealed that Australian people’s feelings toward Indonesia had their lowest in the past nine years amid escalating diplomatic tension due to alleged “bribery” by Australian officials of people smugglers to return their boat to Indonesia.”: Aussie perception of Indonesia lowest in decade: Poll.
- The Jakarta Post reported, “The Australian government has paid thousands of dollars to turn back boats of asylum seekers for at least four years, a document reveals. An exclusive report by Australian media group Fairfax states that the policy, called boat payment, has been in force for some time, including under the former Labor government.”: Australia’s boat payment policy four years old.
Who is the mysterious “Agus”?
— David Marler (@Qldaah) June 15, 2015
In the media
— The Venerable Rod Bower (@FrBower) June 15, 2015
If the price is right… pic.twitter.com/EpUCgeW29O
— The Cathy Wilcox (@cathywilcox1) June 15, 2015
— The Cathy Wilcox (@cathywilcox1) June 15, 2015
— david rowe (@roweafr) June 15, 2015
(June 15, 2015) – Conspiracy theories
What we know so far
- Paul Farrell reported, “The Australian government is facing growing pressure to respond to allegations that it paid people smugglers to return an asylum-seeker vessel back to Indonesia. The prime minister, Tony Abbott, refused to rule out whether such an operation had occurred, but said the government was “prepared to do what is necessary” to prevent asylum-seeker boats arriving in Australia. The claims have arisen gradually, and information from official sources remains sparse. Here’s what we know so far.”: Australia and people-smuggler payment claims: what we know so far.
HRC President Gillian Triggs
Jakarta responds, tensions escalate
- Daniel Hurst, Lenore Taylor and Beh Lih Yi reported, “Indonesia has warned Australia that government-sanctioned payments to people smugglers would entice even more people to make dangerous journeys between the two countries, in an increasing diplomatic row over alleged bribes to boat crews to turn back. Jakarta also demanded Australia’s foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, retract her “inappropriate” statement that Indonesia is to blame for failing to secure its borders in the first place.”: Jakarta demands Bishop retract claim Indonesia failing to secure its border.
- The Jakarta Post reported, “A professor of international law from the University of Indonesia (UI), Hikmahanto Juwana, has said Indonesia needs to ensure that Australia can change its policy of expelling asylum seekers. He says such a policy contradicts a Transnational Organized Crimes’ protocol, namely the “Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air” the Australian government ratified in 2004.”: Australia must stop expulsion of asylum seekers: Expert.
- Daniel Flitton wrote, “Backed into a corner, this government excels at deflection with a righteous display of indignation. Julie Bishop has sought to turn back on Indonesia the persistent and uncomfortable questions about whether Australia paid off crews of asylum seeker boats.”: Asylum boats: Australia and Indonesia both play domestic politics.
Interview with Andreas Harsono HRW
It happened – David Marr
No straight answers in question time
Attorney-General George Brandis dismisses claims
Defence Minister says not a matter for defence personnel
Further legal advice
- Lenore Taylor reported, “Any Australian officials paying people smugglers to take asylum seekers back to Indonesia may have broken Australian laws carrying potential jail terms of up to 20 years and contravened international law, judicial experts say.”: Any payments to people smugglers ‘may have broken Australian law’.
Bring back Philip Ruddock – Cheaper in the long run
- Sarah Whyte reported, “Government MPs have defended the idea of paying people smugglers to turn asylum seeker boats back to Indonesia, saying it is cheaper than processing asylum seekers. While no MP has commented on the specific allegation that Australian officials paid people smugglers on board a boat carrying 65 asylum seekers, their language on Monday changed to defending the idea of it, or saying it was a non-issue.”: Paying off people smugglers ‘would save money’: Government MPs defend idea of payments.
- Lanai Scarr reported, “Former immigration minister and architect of the Pacific Solution Philip Ruddock says if any payment was made to people smugglers to return to Indonesia, the government would still be saving money in the long term.”: Philip Ruddock says paying smugglers costs nothing compared to processing illegal boat arrivals.
Bring back ScoMo – Confidence
- Lisa Cox reported, “Former immigration minister Scott Morrison says he is confident Australian officials involved in stopping boatloads of asylum seekers “have been doing things lawfully and consistent with government policy”.”: ‘We always act lawfully’: Scott Morrison responds to growing pressure over claims Australia paid people smugglers.
- Dan Conifer and Louise Yaxley reported, “Former immigration minister Scott Morrison says he has “every confidence” Operation Sovereign Borders officers have acted lawfully, amid calls for investigations into claims “bribes have been paid” to people smugglers.” Scott Morrison expresses confidence in asylum seeker policies as Labor requests auditor-general probe people smuggler payment claims.
By hook or BUY crooks
Perhaps Tony Abbott meant "by hook or BUY crooks" when responding to allegations of paying ppl smugglers…
— 💚🌏 Sarah Hanson-Young (@sarahinthesen8) June 15, 2015
Bishop attacks Indonesia
- Shalailah Medhora reported, “The claim that Australian authorities paid people smugglers to return their boat to Indonesia has escalated into a diplomatic war of words, with the Australian foreign minister, Julie Bishop, suggesting Indonesia is to blame for failing to secure its borders in the first place.”: Bishop tells Indonesia to fix its borders over people smugglers payments claim.
Exclusive to Daily Telegraph – Spies like us
- Simon Benson reported, “AUSTRALIAN spies may have been involved in paying people smugglers to turn their boats around as part of a classified operation to disrupt their movements, a senior intelligence source revealed. Labor is demanding the government confirm or deny reports that Australian navy officials recently paid people-smugglers to return a boat to Indonesia. However, a senior intelligence source has told The Daily Telegraph that Australia’s foreign intelligence service ASIS had been engaged in covert disruption and intelligence operations which may have involved such payments. “: Aussie spies may have paid people smugglers.
Exclusive to The Australian – Blame Indonesia
- Greg Sheridan reported, “Julie Bishop has delivered a stinging rebuke to Jakarta over allegations that Australian officials paid people-smugglers to turn a boat around, with the Foreign Minister suggesting Indonesia was to blame for failing to enforce sovereignty over its own borders.”: Julie Bishop tells Jakarta to fix borders.
- Greg Sheridan wrote, “The key to the mystery of whether and what payments any Australians may have made to the Indonesian crew of an illegal people-smuggling boat lies not in Canberra but in Indonesia. If Australians did make any payments such as this, they were probably trying to save people’s lives in a desperate situation at sea. Let’s be quite blunt about all this and for a change tell the undiplomatic truth. Elements of the Indonesian police have routinely been corruptly involved in illegal people-smuggling ventures.”: Time to tell the undiplomatic truth.
Analysis – What’s it really about?
- Wendy Frew reported, “Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s refusal to confirm or deny allegations that Australian officials paid asylum boat crews to turn back to Indonesia has got many wondering about his choice of words.
Migrants from Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka were reportedly heading to New Zealand last month when an Australian navy ship intercepted them and an immigration official paid each member of the crew A$5,000 ($3,900; £2,500) to turn back to Indonesia.”: What Tony Abbott’s boat rhetoric is really about.
Analysis – Australia wants answers
- Mark Kenny wrote, “Tony Abbott must have concluded that voters will accept anything – that they are so anxious about “porous” borders that the most hard-won principles of our democracy will be surrendered without a whimper.”: Tony Abbott’s tangled web over paying people smugglers.
Analysis – Government by complete fruit loops
- Macro Business wrote, “If this proves to be true it destroys the “stop the boats” policy. Paying people smugglers tax-payer’s money to turn back is people smuggling. It encourages them to keep coming for more money as they get paid for both legs of the ‘wait and return’ job. It is morally, legally, practically, strategically and politically indefensible. “: Tony Abbott: People smuggler?
Desperate people. pic.twitter.com/gMYDPm9FSz
— The Cathy Wilcox (@cathywilcox1) June 14, 2015
(June 14, 2015) – Still stopping the boats
Labor calls for investigation
- Sarah Whyte reported, “The Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has written to the Auditor General asking him to investigate claims that taxpayer money has been used by the Abbott government to fund criminal activities, by paying people smugglers to return asylum seekers to Indonesia.”: Labor calls for investigation into people smuggling payment claims.
Letter published by asylum seekers
- UndercoverInfo has published a copy of a letter signed by the 65 asylum seekers, “We publish, below, a transcript of a letter signed by the 65 asylum-seekers whose boat, which was heading for New Zealand, was intercepted by the Australian Navy and Customs.”: #OnWaterGate: 65 asylum-seekers named; more details of journey revealed.
- ABC News reported, “A Federal Opposition frontbencher has warned allegations Australian officials paid people smugglers to turn a boat back into Indonesian waters are affecting diplomatic relations with the country. Labor immigration spokesman Richard Marles joined Indonesia in asking for answers from the Government over the claims after Prime Minister Tony Abbott last week refused to confirm or deny the allegations.”: Asylum seekers: Opposition warns paid people smuggler claims are damaging relationship with Indonesia.
Nope, Mr Abbott, you don't have a mandate to break the law or hand wads of cash to pay people smugglers in the middle of the ocean.
— 💚🌏 Sarah Hanson-Young (@sarahinthesen8) June 14, 2015
Indonesia still awaiting answers
- Jewel Topsfield and Amilia Rosa reported, “Rote: Indonesia’s foreign minister has asked the Australian government to explain claims that its authorities paid people smugglers to return 65 asylum seekers to Indonesian waters, as a local police chief insists the payment occurred. Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi approached Australian ambassador Paul Grigson in Jakarta on Saturday. “I just asked him what is it about, tell me what is it about,” she told reporters. “He promised to take my inquiry, my questions, to Canberra and he promised to get back to me again.” The police chief from Rote island, Hidayat, where the boat ended up, has angrily hit out at Australian government ministers who have denied the allegations.”: Indonesia seeks answers from ambassador over people smuggler cash claims.
- ABC News reported, “Indonesia’s foreign minister says she wants answers from Australia over claims navy officials paid people smugglers to turn a boat back into Indonesian waters.”: Asylum seekers: Indonesian foreign minister wants answers over allegations Australia paid people smugglers.
- Liam Quinn reported, “Prime Minister Tony Abbott has come under renewed pressure from the federal opposition and Indonesia over claims people smugglers were paid off by the Australian government. Labor has demanded Mr Abbott makes an ’emphatic denial’ of ‘jaw-dropping’ reports the government is paying people smugglers to turn back asylum seeker boats, as Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi has officially called for answers on the allegations.”: Indonesian government ramps up pressure on Prime Minister Tony Abbott as Labor demands answers over claims Australia PAID people smugglers thousands to turn boats around.
- The Jakarta Post reported, “Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott refused again Sunday to deny allegations an official paid thousands of dollars to turn back a boatload of asylum-seekers, despite calls from Indonesia for answers.”: Australia ignores Indonesia plea for answers on boat payment claim.
Wads of cash
- Jewel Topsfield and Amilia Rosa reported, “Indonesia’s foreign minister has asked the Australian government to explain claims it paid people smugglers to return 65 asylum seekers to Indonesian waters, as a local police chief insists the payment occurred.”: Indonesian police chief Hidayat confirms ‘wads of cash’ paid to people smugglers.
Abbott responds with ‘stop the boats’
- Sarah Whyte reported, “Prime Minister Tony Abbott has repeatedly dodged new questions about whether Australian officials paid people smugglers thousands of dollars to return 65 asylum seekers to Indonesia, only saying that his government is “prepared to do what is necessary to keep the boats stopped”. Mr Abbott was asked four questions about the payment claims in Canberra on Sunday, including whether Australian taxpayers should know whether the government was funding a criminal syndicate.”: Prime Minister Tony Abbott dodges questions on people-smuggler payment claims.
- Shalailah Medhora reported, “Australia’s prime minister, Tony Abbott, remains tight-lipped over claims Australian authorities paid off people smugglers, as pressure mounts from Indonesia to confirm or deny the allegations.”: Tony Abbott sticks to ‘stop the boats’ in face of claims people smugglers paid.
Shoes thrown at Peter Dutton
- Jorge Branco reported, “A 33-year-old man has been charged after allegedly throwing a pair of shoes at Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. Police arrested the man, from Ocean View west of Caboolture, shortly after two shoes were thrown at the minister as he spoke at a refugee welcome ceremony at the Annerley Football Club about 10.10am Sunday.”: Shoes thrown at Immigration Minister Peter Dutton in Brisbane.
- Shalailah Medhora reported, “David Sprigg says immigration minister ‘should be ashamed for what his government is doing and how asylum seekers are being treated’”: Queensland man throws shoes at Peter Dutton in protest over refugee policies.
The United Nations high commissioner for refugees
- Shalailah Medhora reported, “The United Nations high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) has weighed in on allegations that Australian authorities paid off people smugglers, as Indonesia issues Australia with a “please explain” notice.”: UN weighs in on outcry over reports Australia paid people smugglers.
Dutton clams up
- Radio New Zealand reported, ” The captain and crew of a boat carrying 65 asylum seekers were allegedly given $5000 dollars each to return to Indonesian waters. Last week Mr Dutton strenously denied the claims, but now is not commenting, reports the ABC. “The Government will always do the right thing by the Australian people, we will act within the law, we will act within our international obligations but from day one we have not commented on specific operations, we provide details at a time which is operationally appropriate.”: Australia’s immigration minister will no longer comment on alleged smuggling payments.
(June 13, 2015) – Indonesia demands answers
Indonesian Foreign Minister responds
- The Economic Times reported, “JAKARTA: Australia would have stooped to a “new low” if reports that its navy paid people-smugglers bound for Australia thousands of dollars to turn back their boat are true, an Indonesian government official said on Saturday.”: Australia stoops to “new low” if boat payment confirmed: Indonesia.
- Khaleej Times reported, “Jakarta: Indonesia’s foreign minister on Saturday demanded answers from Canberra over claims Australian officials paid thousands of dollars to turn a boat back to Indonesia after Prime Minister Tony Abbott refused to deny the allegations.”: Indonesia demands answers from Australia on asylum boat ‘payment’.
- Guardian Australia reported, “Indonesia has asked Australia’s ambassador to explain claims that the country’s navy paid people smugglers $US5,000 each to take their boat carrying 65 refugees back into Indonesian waters.”: Indonesia seeks answers on claims Australian navy paid people smugglers.
Abbott continues to refuse to answer
- Jewel Topsfield and Sarah Whyte reported, “Prime Minister Tony Abbott has refused to say whether Australian officials handed over cash payments on the high seas to people smugglers, despite two cabinet ministers denying the allegations and the Indonesian government launching an investigation.Labor and the Greens have called on Mr Abbott to come clean on the claims, saying that if they are true any such payments are encouraging the very people the government calls “evil” to be lured to customs vessels for cash from a “floating ATM”.”: Tony Abbott refuses to say whether Australia paid people smugglers.
- Dan Conifer reported, “Prime Minister Tony Abbott is refusing to deny claims Australian officials have paid asylum boat crews to turn back to Indonesia, saying the Government will stop the boats “by hook or by crook”. Australian border officials reportedly handed over thousands of dollars to the captain and crew of a vessel carrying 65 asylum seekers which was intercepted off Java last week.”: Asylum seekers: Tony Abbott refuses to deny Australia paid thousands to people smugglers.
- SBS News reported, “Labor is demanding Tony Abbott deny claims the government is paying people smugglers to turn back boats, while Indonesia has asked for an explanation.”: Pressure mounts on PM to deny boat claims.
- Elise Scott reported, “Labor is demanding Prime Minister Tony Abbott provide an “emphatic denial” of “jaw-dropping” reports the government is paying people smugglers to turn back asylum seeker boats.”: Pressure mounts on PM to deny boat claims.
- Tom Parfitt reported, “Six Indonesian smugglers were paid more than £3,000 each to abandon their journey to Australia, which has vowed to stop any migrants reaching its shores by boat, according to reports. The boat was reportedly carrying 65 asylum seekers, mainly from Sri Lanka, before being intercepted by Australian coast guards.”: Australia ‘paid people smugglers £20k to turn back boats PACKED with asylum seekers’.
- Mark Kenny wrote, “The political threads of asylum seeker policy are now so inflamed that a rational discussion over push and pull is hard to imagine, much less lead to anything approaching a genuine national consensus. “: Tony Abbott’s shocking admission on boats policy.
- Salma Abdelaziz and Jessica King reported, “Australian authorities paid smugglers to turn back a boat transporting migrants attempting to reach that nation, the United Nations refugee agency said Friday, citing people on the ship.”: U.N.: Australia paid migrant smugglers to turn boats around.
- Michelle Innis reported, “SYDNEY, Australia — Australian opposition lawmakers said Saturday that they would press Prime Minister Tony Abbott to reveal whether the government paid smugglers to turn a boat full of migrants back to Indonesia after intercepting it at sea.”: Australian leader is pressed on whether migrant smugglers were paid to turn back.
- Olivia Rondonuwu reported, “Indonesia’s foreign minister Saturday demanded answers from Canberra over claims Australian officials paid thousands of dollars to turn a boat back to Indonesia after Prime Minister Tony Abbott refused to deny the allegations.”: Indonesia demands answers from Australia on asylum boat ‘payment’.
- Julie Doyle reported, “An international law expert has raised the prospect that Australian authorities could be accused of people smuggling if it is proven they paid the crew of an asylum seeker boat to return to Indonesia.”: Asylum seekers: Australian authorities could be accused of people smuggling over alleged payments, law academic says.
- Nine News Sydney reported, “Australian authorities could be accused of people smuggling if it is proven they paid the crew of an asylum-seeker boat to return to Indonesia, an international law expert says.”: Paying the boats serious if proven: expert.
- Sky News Australia reported, “Australian authorities could be accused of people smuggling if it is proven they paid the crew of an asylum-seeker boat to return to Indonesia, an international law expert says.”: Paying boats ‘tantamount to people smuggling’.
(June 12, 2015) – By hook or by crook
Julie Bishop follows Peter Dutton’s lead
- George Roberts reported, “Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has denied claims by Indonesian police that Australian Customs officials paid thousands of dollars to people smugglers to take asylum seekers back to Indonesia. A boat carrying 65 asylum seekers crashed onto a reef near the remote Rote Island, off West Papua, last week and those on board said Australian authorities had turned them back. Rote Island’s police chief said the captain of the boat, a man called Yohanis from North Sulawesi, told police an Australian Customs official paid each crew member $5,000 to bring asylum seekers back to Indonesia. A Sri Lankan asylum seeker called Kajuran told ABC News a similar story, but the claim was difficult to understand or verify.”: Julie Bishop denies claims Australian Customs officers paid people smugglers to take back asylum seekers.
Full ‘by hook or by crook’ interview
- Neil Mitchell interviewed Tony Abbott, “What we do is we stop the boats by hook or by crook. That’s what we’ve got to do and that’s what we’ve successfully done. I don’t want to go into how it’s done.”: PM Tony Abbott refuses to deny claims officials bribed people smugglers.
PM Abbott told @3AWNeilMitchell that the Government will stop the boats 'by hook or by crook.' Mitchell sounded gobsmacked.
— Karen Barlow (@KJBar) June 11, 2015
Tony Abbott wont confirm or deny
- Patrick Begley reported, “Prime Minister Tony Abbott has not denied Australia paid people smugglers to turn around an asylum seeker boat. The Prime Minister also refused to offer a view about whether such a method would be unacceptable and would not commit to an investigation.”: Tony Abbott does not deny Australia paid people smugglers to turn back asylum seeker boats.
- Sarah Whyte reported, “Pressure is building on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to explain whether people smugglers were paid cash by Australian authorities as he repeatedly refused to directly answer questions about the allegations on Friday. Labor and the Greens have called on Mr Abbott to come clean on the claims, saying if they are true it is encouraging people smugglers to be lured to Customs vessels, which they dubbed as a “floating ATM”.”: Pressure on Tony Abbott to explain whether Australian officials paid people smugglers.
Indonesia to investigate
- George Roberts reported, “Indonesia says police are investigating claims that Australian officials paid people smugglers to return asylum seekers to Indonesia. A boat carrying 65 asylum seekers crashed onto a reef near the remote Rote Island, off West Papua, last week. The passengers and crew reported being intercepted by Australian border patrols and being sent back to Indonesia. Rote Island’s police chief said the crew were allegedly paid $5,000 each by an Australian Customs official called Agus to take the passengers back to Australia.”: Indonesia to investigate claims Australia paid people smugglers to turn back.
- The Jakarta Post reported, “An Indonesian official on Friday criticized Australia’s prime minister as “unethical” for sidestepping allegations the Australian navy paid the crew of a boat carrying 65 migrants to return to Indonesian waters.”: Australia PM’s asylum boat stance ‘very unethical’.
Julian Burnside – Dealing with the devil
- Barrister and human rights activist, Julian Burnside wrote, “This goes further than hypocrisy. Tony Abbott’s primary justification for condemning people smugglers is that they cause deaths. Yet it appears he is willing to pay the people smugglers to take their passengers even further, writes Julian Burnside.”: Paying off people smugglers: Is Abbott dealing with the devil?
Making international news
- Al Jazeera reported, “Australia’s prime minister has point-blank refused to say whether his country’s authorities paid people smugglers to turn around their boat holding dozens of asylum seekers, who were eventually rescued by Indonesian authorities after they became stranded.”: Abbott dodges claim Australia paid people smugglers.
- The Independent reported, “Tony Abbott, the Australian Prime Minister, has declined to comment on reports claiming the Australian navy paid a group of people-smugglers thousands of dollars to turn around their boat packed with asylum-seekers.”: Tony Abbott refuses to deny that Australia paid people-smugglers thousands to turn back a boat full of asylum seekers.
- BBC reported, “Prime Minister Tony Abbott has refused to deny reports that an Australian navy ship paid the crew of a migrant boat to turn back to Indonesia. But Mr Abbott said Australia had developed “incredibly creative” approaches to stopping asylum boats from reaching Australia.”: Australia PM Abbott dodges migrant boat payment allegations.
- The Irish Times reported, “Australian prime minister Tony Abbott declined to comment on Friday on reports the Australian navy paid a group of people-smugglers thousands of dollars to turn around their boat packed with asylum-seekers, adding to a furore over the issue.”: Tony Abbott refuses to deny paying asylum seeker boats to turn back.
Tell us Tony
(June 11, 2015) – AFP to investigate
Crew members detained
- Jewel Topsfield, Karuni Rompies and Sarah Whyte reported, “Three Australian Federal Police officers will visit the Indonesian island of Rote where six crew members are being detained on people smuggling charges, according to Indonesian police. A boat with 65 people from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar seeking asylum in New Zealand was intercepted by Australian authorities last month and sent back to Indonesia. Bangladeshi asylum seeker Nazmul Hassan, who said he saw the captain put money in his pocket. Bangladeshi asylum seeker Nazmul Hassan, who said he saw the captain put money in his pocket. The police chief from the Indonesian island of Rote, where the asylum seekers swum ashore after their boat hit rocks, said the six crew had told him Australian authorities had paid them US$5000 each, as reported by Fairfax Media yesterday.”: Australian Federal Police to visit Rote island amid asylum seeker boat claims.
- Daniel Hurst and Beh Lih Yi reported, “Indonesia is investigating claims that Australia paid people smugglers to turn their boat back to Indonesian waters in a development which, if proved, it would consider “very concerning”. The probe came after reports emerged that an Australian border protection official allegedly paid the captain and crew of a boat carrying about 65 asylum seekers about US$30,000 ($39,000) to turn back to Indonesia in late May. “We are currently investigating this. If this is true, it is very concerning,” an Indonesian foreign affairs ministry spokesman, Arrmanatha Nasir, told the Guardian on Thursday, adding that the information was based on initial interviews with migrants on the boat and one crew member.”: Indonesia looks into claims Australia paid people smugglers to turn back.
The offence of people smuggling
- Amy Maguire wrote, “Law professor Don Rothwell believes that Australian officials are well protected by the Migration Act. This legislation gives a wide range of discretion to officials so long as they act within the scope of their authority. The act says nothing about payments to the crew of people-smuggling vessels. The act makes people smuggling a crime, punishable by ten years’ imprisonment. The act also indicates that the government should be permitted to regulate dealings with asylum seekers with minimal oversight by the domestic courts or the international legal system.”: Is it an offence if Australians pay people smugglers to turn back?
(June 10, 2015) – Immigration Minister denies payments
People smugglers paid to return
- Jewel Topsfield, Karuni Rompies and Sarah Whyte reported, “Australian officials paid thousands of dollars to the captain and crew of a boat carrying asylum seekers, who were then returned to Indonesia, according to passengers and an Indonesian police chief. Sixty-five people from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, who were seeking asylum in New Zealand, had their boat intercepted by Australian navy and Customs officials in late May, and were then returned to the island of Rote. The Indonesian police chief on Rote, Hidayat, said the six crew members said they had been given $US5000 each by Australian officials. The crew were apprehended when they arrived at Rote and are being processed for people-smuggling offences.”: Australian officials paid people smugglers to turn back to Indonesia, says police chief.
Peter Dutton denies payment to people smugglers
- Daniel Hurst reported, “The immigration minister Peter Dutton was asked directly at a media conference on Tuesday whether officials had “recently” paid the crew and captain of a boat carrying asylum seekers to take them from Australia. He replied: “No.” But when asked the broader follow-up question, “Has Australia ever done that?”, Dutton said: “It’s been a longstanding policy of the government not to comment on on-water matters.””: Peter Dutton invokes ‘on-water’ secrecy over claim of payments to boat crew.
- Erin Cook reported, “Jakarta. Australia’s Minister for Immigration Peter Dutton has denied claims that officials had paid the crew of a boat turned back from Australian waters to Indonesia, which ran aground on a reef near Rote island, East Nusa Tenggara province.”: Australian minister rebuffs claims people smugglers paid to return boat to Indonesian waters.
(June 8, 2015) – Cash for turnbacks
Radio New Zealand airs allegations
- Daniela Maoate – Cox reported, “A refugee in an Indonesian detention centre says Australian officials paid the crew and captain of the boat he and others were on to take them away from Australia. Sixty-five refugees from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar have said they were heading for New Zealand last week when they ended up shipwrecked and detained in Indonesia. Nazmul Hassan, from Bangladesh, said he is one of the group detained in the Indonesian province of West Timor.”: Claim officials paid for boat to leave.
(June 3, 2015) – Australian Navy turns back boat
Given two new boats
- Yoseph Kelen reported, “Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara. A group of asylum seekers on their way to Australia from Myanmar, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka were given supplies by the Australian Navy and then sent back to Indonesian waters, one of them confirmed on Tuesday. The group of 65 people is currently staying at the Ina Boi Hotel in Kupang, after landing on nearby Rote island, in East Nusa Tenggara province, on Sunday night. Raguvarman, from Bangladesh, told reporters on Tuesday that their boat was intercepted by the Royal Australian Navy near the Ashmore and Cartier Islands, south of Rote. The asylum seeker said the boat crew was given two new boats, food, money and fuel by the Australians, and that they were then sent back north, confirming an earlier Reuters report.”: Asylum Seekers Given Supplies by Oz Navy, Sent Back to Indonesia.
(June 2, 2015) – Shipwreck off Rote Island confirmed
Wreck the boats
- George Roberts reported, “Indonesian police say a boat carrying 65 asylum seekers has crashed onto a reef after being turned back by Australian authorities. Those aboard — 54 Sri Lankans, 10 Bangladeshis, one person from Myanmar and five additional crew — told Indonesian police they were trying to get to New Zealand. There were four women and three toddlers on board. They are now being held on Rote Island off West Timor after crashing onto a reef near the remote Landuti Island.”: Asylum seeker boat crashes onto reef after being turned back by Australian ship: Indonesian police.
- The Jakarta Globe reported, “Jakarta. Indonesian authorities have rescued 65 asylum-seekers trying to reach Australia after their boat ran aground on a reef, Indonesian police said on Tuesday. An Australian opposition politician said the boat had run aground after being towed away by the Australian navy, underscoring the risk to migrants of a tough Australian policy. Migrants crammed into boats have been trying to cross the Mediterranean between Africa and Europe in recent weeks and the Andaman Sea in Asia, highlighting a global issue that many countries are struggling to deal with.”: Indonesia Rescues 65 ‘After Australian Navy Towed Away’ Asylum Boat.
- Jewel Topsfield and Karuni Rompies reported, “Australian customs turned back 65 people, including a pregnant woman, after their boat reached Australian waters last Tuesday, according to an Indonesian police chief. The 65 people from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, who reportedly claimed to be asylum seekers, are in detention on the Indonesian island of Rote. Fishermen spotted two boats floating near Landuti island in the West Rote district, 500 kilometres north-east of the Australian coast, on Sunday. “They looked exhausted,” Rote police chief Hidayat said. “One female passenger is pregnant – we took her immediately to the hospital but she is ok now.” Mr Hidayat said the migrants told him they had been caught by Australian customs on May 26, who sunk their boat. They were put in two blue and white boats, and sent back into Indonesian waters.”: Australia turned back 65 people on boat, including a pregnant woman, police chief says.
- Paul Farrell reported, “Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young has said Australia is continuing to shirk responsibility for asylum seekers in the region as reports come in of a further turnback by an Australian vessel. On Tuesday reports emerged from Indonesia that asylum seekers bound for New Zealand had been intercepted by an Australian navy vessel. The ABC reported that the vessel held 54 Sri Lankans and 10 Bangladeshis, who were now on Rote Island in Indonesia. It has also been reported that children were among those on board the vessel, which crashed on a reef.”: Asylum seeker policy shirks regional obligations, says Greens senator.
- Kaitlin Thals reported, “Indonesian police say a boat carrying 65 asylum seekers has crashed onto a reef after being turned back by Australian authorities. Those aboard the boat — 54 Sri Lankans, 10 Bangladeshis, one person from Myanmar and five crew — told Indonesian police they were trying to get to New Zealand. There were four women and three toddlers on board.”: Navy turns back asylum seekers, boat hits reef.
- Rachel Baxendale reported, “The Australian navy has pushed a boatload of asylum-seekers from Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka who were bound for New Zealand back into Indonesian waters, police on the archipelago have declared. The 65 migrants were intercepted by the Australian navy and had since come ashore, said Hidayat, a police official on Rote Island in Indonesia’s east. “According to their testimony, they were pushed back by the Australian navy and immigration after they were interrogated,” he said last night.“They said they were on their way to New Zealand.””: Australian Navy in boat turnback as crisis spreads.
Boat intended for New Zealand
- Aimee Gulliver reported, “A people-smuggling boat with 65 people on board was a “credible risk and threat”, and had the capability to make it to New Zealand, the Prime Minister says. Australian customs turned back 65 people, including a pregnant woman, after their boat reached Australian waters last Tuesday, according to an Indonesian police chief. The 65 people from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, who reportedly claimed to be asylum seekers, were in detention on the Indonesian island of Rote. John Key said the boat had a steel hull, was more robust than others had been, and had been on its way to New Zealand. “The advice we got was that it actually had the capability of making it all the way to New Zealand, so we alerted the systems that we have in the way to work through those processes.” The boat had put out a distress call in relation to sick people on board and was boarded by Australian personnel. “So it fits in with what I’ve been saying for quite some time, these people smugglers are going to get hold of more robust boats, better capability, this was a steel-hull boat that could have made it to New Zealand.””: People-smuggling boat ‘credible risk and threat’ to NZ.
(June 1, 2015) – First media reports
- Indonesia says Australian navy turns back asylum-seeker boat. Scores of asylum-seekers have come ashore in eastern Indonesia after their boat was intercepted by the Australian navy and pushed into Indonesian waters as they headed for New Zealand, police say. The 65 migrants from Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka were spotted by the Australians, said Hidayat, an Indonesian police official on Rote Island in the east of the archipelago. “According to their testimony, they were pushed back by the Australian navy and immigration after they were interrogated,” said the official on Monday, who like many Indonesians goes by one name. “They said they were on their way to New Zealand.”
(May 2, 2015) – Report of a boat
Boat mentioned in The West Australian
- Nick Butterly reported, “Customs officials were last night racing to intercept an asylum-seeker vessel – the first in Australian waters in more than a month. The West Australian understands Border Protection Command spotted the boat in remote waters between Java and Ashmore Reef yesterday and sent a patrol boat to pick it up. It was unclear if Customs would take the boat under escort to Australia or try to turn it back to Indonesia.”: Race to block asylum seekers.