22 Jan 2014

Navy accused of asylum-seeker abuse

2:49 pm on 22 January 2014

Exclusive video footage obtained by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation appears to support claims by asylum-seekers that they suffered burns when the Australian Navy forced their boat back to Indonesia.

Police in Indonesia say they have seen evidence to support those allegations, which the Australian government denies and Prime Minister Tony Abbott has declared it will continue to take action to stop the boats.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Photo: AAP

Passengers from two boats that turned up on Indonesia's Rote Island within three weeks said they had been forced back to Indonesia by the Australian Navy.

Asylum-seekers from both boats made similar claims of abuse by Australian sailors.

Indonesian police are supporting the passengers' claims that some of them suffered burns after being forced to hold onto hot pipes from the boat's engine.

New footage obtained by ABC News shows several asylum-seekers getting medical attention for what appear to be fresh burns on their hands.

Indonesian police say 10 asylum-seekers needed attention, seven of them for severe burns, after being picked in Indonesian waters on 6 January this year.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said his government would maintain its policy.

"Stopping the boats is a matter of sovereignty and (Indonesian) President Yudhoyono off all people ought to understand, does understand just how seriously countries take their sovereignties. So we will continue to do what we are entitled to do to secure our borders."

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison earlier issued a statement rejecting the asylum-seekers' claims.

The claims of physical abuse come amid warnings Canberra risks clashes with Indonesia at sea over the Australian government's asylum-seeker policies and the admission that Australian ships have entered Indonesian waters without permission.