This is Rote Island, just off the tip of West Timor in Indonesia. It is approximately 500kms north-east of Australia, has a population of a little over 100,000 people and appears to be the Australian Navy’s preferred dumping ground for those asylum seekers the Abbott Government rejects out-of-hand without interview or assessment.
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This is where Rote Island is positioned in relation to Australia’s Maritime borders and Australia-Indonesia treaty boundaries:
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On 10 January 2014 The Australian reported:
Immigration and Border Protection Minister Scott Morrison issued a statement yesterday saying he would not comment on operations "on water", but he indicated that if Australian warships or Customs patrol boats had towed asylum-seeker vessels, they did not enter Indonesia's 12-nautical-mile territorial limit.
If this statement is correct in relying on territorial waters as the only significant boundary, then it is possible that the Australian Navy had control in international waters of one or more of the five vessels suspected of being turned around/towed back. A rather dubious proposition.
However, the situation worsens, for one televised media report suggests that Australian Navy personnel deliberately disabled an asylum seeker boat on the open sea and then abandoned it:
Despite the Abbott Government refusing to give any details of these turn around/tow backs, reports are emerging that Indonesia is not happy with the situation.
The Sydney Morning Herald 10 January 2013:
Australia's turning back of at least one asylum-seeker boat to Indonesia has sparked political anger in Jakarta, with senior politicians warning it could further damage the already fraught relationship.
The anger came as video emerged of Royal Australian Navy personnel boarding an asylum-seeker boat whose passengers claim they were intercepted near Darwin and towed back to Indonesia over a period of six days....
Mahfudz Siddiq, head of the Indonesian parliament's foreign affairs committee, demanded Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop sit down with her Indonesian counterpart Marty Natalegawa ''as soon as possible'' to explain.
''The situation is not helpful. It will get worse for our bilateral relations,'' he said. ''Unless the situation is handled soon, I fear it will deteriorate further after the spying affair and the end of our military co-operation. I worry if the issue of people-smuggling is not resolved … it will inflame [this].''
Susaningtyas Nefo Handayani Kertopati, a member of the Indonesian parliament's oversight commission on international affairs, urged Jakarta to make a stern response to Australia, which she accused of having an ''extreme attitude'' on people-smuggling. ''The government should not be ambivalent or hesitant in addressing Australia's extreme attitude. It must deal with it seriously,'' she said.
Seven News on Thursday night aired mobile phone footage purportedly filmed by asylum seekers of Royal Australian Navy personnel boarding their boat.
The asylum seekers claimed they were intercepted near Darwin on January 1 and towed for six days back to Indonesian waters. Some have said they were mistreated....
Given that up to five more asylum seeker boats were allegedly heading towards Australia in December 2013-January 2014 than were reported in Operation Sovereign Borders media releases, then this situation also makes a mockery of Abbott's claims about asylum seekers numbers.