Indonesia will escort a boat bearing 44 Australian-bound asylum seekers from Sri Lanka back to international waters after repairs on Friday (17/06), Aceh provincial authorities said, according to the Jakarta Globe.
This is despite a memo from Vice President Jusuf Kalla issued on Wednesday instructing Aceh Governor Zaini Abdullah to temporarily host the asylum seekers for food and boat repairs.
The group — comprising of Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority — has been stranded for around six days at the waters off Lhoknga coast in Aceh Besar, Aceh, after machinery failure hindered their trip to Australia.
Aceh authorities have delivered several packages of food, medicine and mineral water to the boat, adding medics also checked the health of 44 asylum seekers — which includes a pregnant woman and nine children.
Aceh Police chief Insp. Gen. Husein Hamidi on Thursday said the boat will be returned to international waters now that repairs are complete. A Sabang Navy ship, tugboat and will be used in the “push-off process.”
Hamidi said the Aceh administration gave 7 tons of fuel to the boat to continue their trip, adding that it is up to the asylum seekers where they go next.
The Sri Lankan asylum seekers traveled for more than 20 days on a boat bearing an Indian flag. Despite many recent improvements, there are still concerns about discriminatory practices against Tamils by law enforcement officials in Sri Lanka.
Indonesian authorities normally place asylum seekers intercepted in Indonesian waters to detention centers, where their asylum status is then processed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and International Organization for Migration (IOM).
There are currently more than 13,000 refugees and asylum-seekers registered with the UNHCR in the archipelago, while detention centers in Indonesia are overcapacity. (Colombo Gazette)