Indonesian police have arrested 80 Pakistanis and 17 Afghans stranded after their boat hit a reef as they tried to reach Australia’s Christmas Island, an official said Tuesday.
Australia is struggling to deal with a steady influx of asylum-seekers arriving by boat. Many use Indonesia as a transit hub, boarding leaky wooden vessels that sometimes never make their destination.
Working on a tip-off police found the 97 migrants on a small island off Java’s Banten province on Monday, three days after their boat was badly damaged after hitting the reef in rough seas.
“They had been on the island for three days when we arrived… it is quite remote,” provincial maritime police chief Raden Mas Tohir told AFP.
“They are all in good condition and arrived this morning at an immigration detention centre in Banten,” he said, adding that the group had set off from a port near the Indonesian capital Jakarta.
Hundreds of boatpeople have died en route to Australia this year, while many more are being held in detention centres after being stopped while attempting to make the perilous journey.
Indonesia jailed five soldiers for up to six years last month for their roles in a people-smuggling ring. It included organising a boat which capsized late last year, killing 200 passengers.