By Eileen Gould
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania
CANBERRA, Australia – Three Indonesian nationals have been charged with attempting to smuggle more than fifty asylum seekers into Australia.
Last week, the Australian federal police first charged two Indonesian men, aged 32 and 18, with people smuggling. Another Indonesian, aged 19, was subsequently charged with the same offense, bringing five or more non-citizens into the country.
In October, the HMAS Bathurst was stopped by officials off the northwest coast of Western Australia, which led to the discovery of these three men.
People smuggling has been an ongoing concern of the Australian government. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has taken it up with his counterpart in Sri Lanka, Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake and Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama.
While at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Trinidad and Tobago, Rudd met with the Sri Lankan Prime Minister to discuss current problems in the Pacific region surrounding refugees and people smuggling.
Sri Lanka and Australia have agreed to continue to work together to combat the problem. Australia promises to continue to provide support to Sri Lanka to address the situation.
Providing housing for displaced individuals has become a huge problem, as a large number of individuals are awaiting resettlement from camps in Sri Lanka. Recent reports indicate that these individuals are approximately 130,000 in number.
Rudd says, “It is a huge problem in terms of the adequate provision of housing to accommodate the basic life needs of internally displaced persons.”
A report released last week on the Arabic news network Al Jazeera claimed to expose the people smugglers’ methods in bringing asylum seekers from Indonesia to Australia.
The asylum seekers are hidden below deck on board the smugglers’ boats. The people smugglers allegedly will pretend to be in danger so that the Australian authorities will pick them up and bring them to one of several immigration detention facilities.
Despite multiple arrests for people smuggling, one man admits that he ‘has no fear’ and will bribe Indonesian police to get out of jail.
The trial for one of the three Indonesian men charged with human smuggling began last week at the Perth Magistrates Court and continues today.
If convicted of people smuggling, the individuals face a maximum penalty of twenty years in jail or a $220,000 fine.
For more information please see:
Daily Mirror – Australian PM discusses issue with Sri Lankan counterpart at CHOGM – 01 December 2009
Big Pond News – Rudd talks on refugees at CHOGM – 30 November 2009
Herald Sun – Teen Indonesian charged with people smuggling – 27 November 2009
Jakarta Post – Indonesians face 20-year sentence for alleged smuggling – 27 November 2009
Sydney Morning Herald – Report exposes people smuggling methods – 23 November 2009