Tony Abbott, the Australian Prime Minister, has declined to comment on reports the Australian navy paid a group of people-smugglers thousands of dollars to turn around their boat packed with asylum-seekers.
Australia would not comment on “operational” crime-fighting and security matters, Mr Abbott said, amid claims that people-smugglers were paid about A$5,000 each to abandon their journey to Australia and return to Indonesia after being intercepted at sea.
Opponents of the Australian Government’s tough immigration policies have labelled the allegations “appalling” and akin to participating in people-trafficking, and called on Mr Abbott to come clean. The Indonesian government has said it is investigating the allegations.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton have both denied the reports, in Australian and Indonesian media, that a boat was turned back in return for around A$ 40,000.
But Mr Abbott told reporters: “We don’t go into the details of operational measures to fight crime, we don’t go into the details of operational measures on national security, and I’m certainly not going to go into the details of operational matters on the water now.”
The Prime Minister told 3AW: “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.”
Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman Armanatha Nasir told reporters the captain of the asylum-seeker vessel was being detained on charges related to people-smuggling. (The Independent)