Indonesian police and immigration officials are trying to convince 120 Australia-bound asylum seekers to disembark from a vessel docked off western Java, police said Monday.
A tanker travelling from Australia to Singapore found the asylum seekers, all believed to be men from Afghanistan and Iran, on a sinking boat in Indonesian waters and rescued them Sunday, said Banten province maritime police chief Budi Hermawan.
“The men are refusing to get off the boat. The police, immigration and the International Organisation for Migration are trying to negotiate with them to get them off,” he said.
“Based on the information from the field, they are 120 males that we suspect are from Afghanistan and Iran, but we are not sure because we haven’t been able to do the identification process,” immigration spokesman Maryoto Sumadi said.
The Singapore-registered tanker is docked off the town of Merak, where in 2009 scores of Australia-bound Sri Lankan asylum seekers refused to get off a boat in a six-month standoff with Indonesian authorities.
Hermawan said authorities had organised buses and accommodation at a nearby hotel for the asylum seekers, should they disembark.
Indonesia has long been a transit country for illegal migration to Australia.
In December, a boat carrying around 250 mostly Afghan and Iranian asylum seekers sank in Indonesian waters en route to Australia’s Christmas Island, with only 47 surviving.
Indonesia is not a signatory to the UN refugee convention and often jails asylum seekers awaiting refugee status.