Indonesia has asked Australia to explain how an alleged people smuggler, known as Captain Emad, was given a refugee protection visa in Australia.
The allegations, aired on the ABC’s Four Corners programme, have caused a flurry of diplomatic inquiries between Canberra and Jakarta.
Indonesia’s Foreign minister Marty Natalegawa says the allegations about Emad’s refugee status in Australia are “very serious”.
“We would have thought the most ideal situation is, of course, to bring such individuals to justice,” he said.
“If we are not able to do that but instead make it possible for someone like this person to cheat the system… and potentially carry on carrying out his illegal activities, to live in Australia, that to me, at the minimum, seems quite extraordinary.”
Natalegawa says the case of Emad, if confirmed, is at odds with Australia’s stance on the regional fight against people smuggling.
“It is quite at variance to what I know to be the case, namely of governments in the region, not just Australia and Indonesia but others as well, all working hand in hand to disrupt the people smuggling ring all these years,” he said.
The minister says the affair also heightens Indonesian awareness of the treatment of Indonesian minors who are detained in Australian for crewing asylum seeker boats.
“They are all, in our view, actually victims of people smuggling networks so it sort of brings these kind of issues to light even more,” he said.
“I know that the issue is obtaining a great deal of attention by the Australian government but this particular episode, if confirmed, illustrates that all of us have room and potential to further enhance our capacities in disrupting the people smuggling network.”
His comments follow those of Tantowi Yahya, a high-profile member of Indonesia’s Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, who told the ABC the case made Australia look inconsistent when it comes to the regional fight against people smuggling.
Emad, also known as Abu Khalid, posed as an asylum seeker to smuggle himself into Australia in 2010.
He was taken into detention on Christmas Island and was given a protection visa and Australian residency on April 20, 2010, only three months after the boat arrived.
Emad and other smugglers passed ASIO security checks and went on to set up lucrative people smuggling deals in Australia.
He now lives just a few kilometres from Australian Federal Police headquarters in Canberra.
Australia’s Immigration minister Chris Bowen has ordered an investigation into the case.