Australia Turns Back Asylum Seeker Boat Capable Of Reaching New Zealand

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Sri Lankan asylum seekers who were sent back by Australia wait to enter a magistrate's court in Galle
Sri Lankan asylum seekers who were sent back by Australia cover their faces as they wait to enter a magistrate's court in the southern port district of Galle July 8, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer

The Australian navy has turned back a boat filled with asylum seekers who were “clearly capable” of reaching New Zealand. Asylum seekers had arrived in eastern Indonesia after the Australian navy Intercepted their boat and pushed them back to Indonesian waters, according to Indonesian police.

The Australian navy detected the boats of about 65 migrants from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. “According to their testimony, they were pushed backed by the Australian navy and immigration after they were interrogated,” said an Indonesian police official in the country’s Rote Island.

The asylum seekers were spotted by Indonesian residents after their boat sunk last Sunday. New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said the government had received word that the boat could have made it to New Zealand shores, reports 3News.

“We have a warning system if you like, or a way we deal with this, we have the officials group that meets and goes through the varying different stages and what the options available to us are,” said Mr Key. He added that the boat was proof of his past statement about people smugglers acquiring more robust boats.

New Zealand Labour leader Andrew Little said Mr Key’s comments were just a “distraction.” He believe the risk or threat of refugee boats arriving in New Zealand is low and there was no need for people to panic.

Little said when Parliament passed the Immigration Amendment Bill in 2012, there was already talks of refugees possibly entering the country from Indonesia and the rest of Asia. The Labour leader it has never happened.

Meanwhile, Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said Australia continues to not take responsibility for asylum seekers in the region. ABC reports that children were among the 54 Sri Lankans and 10 Bangladeshis on board the boat that the Australian navy had turned around.

The Australian government continued to resist taking any asylum seeker during the regional crisis and prompted criticism from Indonesia. Hanson-Young said the Abbott government was risking the lives of asylum seekers with its policy of turning back boats. 

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