Almost 40 asylum seekers have been detained in Indonesia while preparing to sail to Australia.
Local police said the 36 asylum seekers were arrested at the weekend in the Pamekasan district on Madura Island in East Java, where they were waiting to travel by boat to Australia.
Pamekasan district police chief, Anjar Gunadi, said 27 of the asylum seekers were arrested on Saturday and another nine yesterday.
“The immigrants were planning to go by boat to Australia,” he said.
The foiled people smuggling mission comes as Australia’s asylum seeker deal with Malaysia appears to be taking longer to bed down than the Australian government had hoped.
Under the deal, announced on May 7, 800 asylum seekers arriving in Australia by sea would be sent to Malaysia to have their claims for protection processed.
In return, Australia would accept 4000 refugees who have already been granted protection status from Malaysia.
But Malaysian Home minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said at the weekend that a timeline for finalising the details had not been set.
“The date will only be available once I have spoken with our counterparts,” he said.
The comments follow meetings between Hishammuddin and Australia’s High Commissioner to Malaysia, Miles Kuppa, as well as representatives from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organisation of Migration.
Hishammuddin also said that UNHCR support would be crucial to the deal going through.-By Karlis Salna