27 Feb 2007

Indonesia declines call to treat boatpeople as asylum seekers

2:56 pm on 27 February 2007

A senior Indonesian immigration official says it will send 83 Sri Lanka asylum seekers straight back to their homeland if they are returned to Indonesia.

Australia is considering sending the the 83 Sri Lankan men, and two Indonesian crew back to Indonesia, where they allegedly boarded their vessel which was intercepted by the Australian Navy last week.

Australia had reportedly sought an undertaking from Jakarta that the men would not be sent straight back to Sri Lanka, and would be able to claim asylum through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Indonesia.

However, Indonesia's Director of Immigration Investigation and Law Enforcement, Syaiful Rachman, says Australia was aware of Indonesia's position, that if they are returned to Indonesia they will be sent immediately back to Sri Lanka.

He says because the men would only be in transit in Indonesia they would not be able to seek asylum from the UNHCR in Indonesia.