Sunday, 12 January 2014
ABC News 11 January 2014:
The UN refugee agency says it is awaiting an explanation from the Australian Government over reports asylum seeker boats have been forcibly returned to Indonesia.
Earlier this week, Indonesian police told the ABC that a second boat carrying asylum seekers had been forced back to Indonesian waters by the Australian Navy.
The first boat was found shortly before Christmas on the island of Rote, in Indonesia's East Nusa Tenggara region.
The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is warning such actions may place Australia in breach of its obligations under international law.
"UNHCR is seeking details from the Australian parties about these recent reports," said spokesman Babar Baloch.
The agency is also investigating reports of plans to provide lifeboats for asylum seekers for future push-backs.
"For the UNHCR it's a very concerning policy or practice if it involves pushing asylum seeker boats back out to sea without proper consideration of individuals who need international protection," said Mr Baloch.
"Any such approach would raise significant issues and potentially could place Australia in breach of its obligations under the Refugee Convention and international law.
"If people who are in need for international protection seek a country's safety, then they must be allowed to go through a process which helps to determine if these people are in need."
Media reports indicate that up to five asylum seeker boats were towed back/pushed back in recent months and, it is possible that as many as 361 asylum seekers may have been involved since 18 September 2013.