Sri Lankan refugees, who were allegedly trying to reach Australia when their boat was left stranding due to bad weather in Indonesian waters, will be sent back to India, officials said. Nine children and one pregnant woman were among the 44 people on the boat, stranded off the Lhoknga coast in Aceh, Indonesia since 11 June.
On 15 June, after a meeting between local and central governments of Indonesia including Vice President Jusuf Kalla, authorities said they will allow the asylum seekers on 16 June to temporarily step off the ship in Aceh for food, boat repair and refuelling. The migrants will then have to head back home.
The head of Aceh immigration division, A Samadan, said that they were illegal immigrants and provided four grounds on which they were rejected, including absence of travel documents and failure to notify their arrival to the authorities. He added that the boat will be escorted out of Indonesian waters and will be directed towards India, Australia Associated Press reported.
Josef Benedict, Amnesty International's director of campaigns for Southeast Asia and Pacific said, "We are calling on the Indonesian authorities to adopt a consistent approach in these cases. Last year Indonesia won much acclaim for providing refugees and migrants with much-needed assistance during the Andaman Sea boat crisis. It will be a grave injustice if people seeking international protection had their right to seek asylum ignored in Indonesia."
Bearing a flag of India, the migrant group, consisting of Tamil minorities from Sri Lanka travelled for more than 20 days on a boat heading to Australia in the hopes of seeking asylum.
According to reports, detention centres in the country are over capacity and more than 13,000 asylum seekers and refugees are registered with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the Indonesian Archipelago.