The Australian government has been under fire both at home and abroad for its strict immigration policies and treatment of refugees, among them detaining asylum seekers in offshore facilities in inhumane conditions.
On Friday, February 05, Australian officials refused to deny reports that the Canberra government paid a big sum of money to people smugglers to return a refugee boat to Indonesia.
“Because it goes to the heart of operational activities… I am not able to answer that question,” Australian Border Force operational commander Major-General Andrew Bottrell told a Senate inquiry into the alleged payments.
The secretary of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection Michael Pezzullo, who was also questioned in the hearing, said, “We are neither confirming nor denying it.”
In last year October, Amnesty International said in a report that the Australian Defense Force handed over some $30,000 to six Indonesian crew members to take a boatload of New Zealand-bound asylum seekers back to Indonesia in May 2015. According to that report the boat was carrying 65 asylum seekers from Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Bangladesh. Later, the asylum seekers were then transferred to two other boats and escorted back to Indonesia. The involved Indonesian crew said that an Australian official paid between $5,000 and $6,000 to each of them to turn the boat back to Indonesia.
“Such payments from Australian officials would amount to a transnational crime,” said Amnesty spokesman Graham Thom
On Friday a leaked policy document revealed that Canberra is considering tighter controls on Syrian refugees to minimize the threat of “extremist infiltration.”
In recent years, the Australian government has been under fire both at home and abroad for its strict immigration policies and treatment of refugees, among them detaining asylum seekers in offshore facilities in inhumane conditions.