Asylum seekers’ boat turned back from Christmas Island, reaches Indonesia

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An Australian Navy boat (L) comes alongside a boat carrying 50 asylum seekers after it arrived at Flying Fish Cove on Christmas Island, about 2600 km (1615 miles) northwest of Perth August 7, 2011. Reuters/Renee Schipp

The boat carrying 16 asylum seekers with one crew member, which was turned back by Australian authorities when it reached within 200 metres from the Christmas Island on Nov. 20, has reached the Indonesian island of West Timor on Thursday. The boat, which had run out of fuel, was spotted by a local fisherman who helped the boat reach the land and then informed the police.

The boat was found adrift near Tablolong, a town in West Timor. The asylum seekers were yelling for help, according to the local man named Daniel Lani.

“We were heading to Christmas Island in Australia. When we arrived, we were detained for four days, the boat we used from Jakarta was destroyed by Australian security,” Muhammad Anwar, a Bangladeshi asylum seeker, told local news agency Antara, as cited by The Guardian. He also said that Australian officials told him and the other asylum seekers-- from India, Bangladesh and Nepal that Australia doesn’t allow illegal immigrants into its territories. Under international law, asylum seekers do not require visa to enter Australia.

The asylum seekers told ABC News that they were intercepted by the Australian Navy when they attempted to reach Christmas Island and had returned to Indonesia before they were transferred to another Australian-made boat. The asylum seekers arrived in Indonesia at the time of a regional meeting held in Jakarta on Friday to discuss the causes of the asylum seeker's problems. The meeting is also expected to be attended by an Australian representative.

Indonesian Deputy Foreign Minister AM Fachir told local reporters while arriving at the meeting that Australia is due with an explanation on this. “Of course, this is not the agreement that we have in the previous discussions we had with Australia, bilaterally or regionally,” he said on the issue.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton had declined to comment on the turn-back of the asylum seeker boat from the Christmas Island last week.

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