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Asylum seekers 'threaten to blow up ship'

Two-hundred-and-sixty Sri Lankan asylum seekers are reportedly threatening to blow up their ship if the Indonesian military forces them ashore.

Indonesian navy spokesman, First Marshal Iskander Sitompul, told the ABC that many of the 260 men, women and children aboard the boat moored at a West Java port feel traumatic about going ashore because they have been "disturbed and tortured" during their journey from Sri Lanka, which began in late July.

He says they lived in the jungle in Malaysia for several months before a people smuggling syndicate took their passports and promised to deliver them to Australia.

A spokesman for the group told The Australian newspaper that they were planing to blow up the boat and jump into the ocean if the Indonesian navy attempts to forcibly move them ashore.

The head of the Immigration Division of the Law and Human Rights office, Harry Purwanto, told the ABC he is in Sumatra's Riau Province surveying a new immigration detention centre built with Australian aid as a possible location for the 260 asylum seekers, currently detained on their boat in a West Java port.

The cargo boat was located after a tip-off from Australian authorities and a phone call to Indonesia's President by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government has this week put in an extra 200 bunk beds to meet what it fears is a growing demand for accommodation on the Christmas Island detention centre.

There are more than 1,000 people detained on Christmas Island - another 58 will arrive soon after being picked up off Ashmore Reef.

Over the past six weeks nearly 700 asylum seekers have been intercepted in Australian waters and ferried to the island facility which is close to capacity.

Former foreign affairs minister Alexander Downer has added fuel to the debate, arguing Kevin Rudd's approach to border protection is inhumane because thousands of people will risk their lives to reach Australian waters.

"I know it was tough to send them to Nauru for processing, but you want to discourage people from setting sail on small boats," he said.

"This is incredibly dangerous and I don't think in the end it is very humane to have in place incentives that encourage people to make those sorts of dangerous journeys."

The Federal Opposition is refusing to say whether it would reintroduce the Howard government's border protection laws if it is re-elected.

Liberal backbencher Petro Georgiou, who was a vocal critic of the Howard government's immigration policies, has told AM he does not believe the change in Government policy has led to more boat arrivals .

He says the increase is a result of push factors like the war in Afghanistan.

But the Opposition's immigration spokeswoman, Sharman Stone, says the Rudd Government's policies, including the end to Temporary Protection Visas are to blame.

"We cannot imagine that there will be any slowing up of the activity unless Prime Minister Rudd has a significant change of strategy," she said.

Federal Immigration Minister Chris Evans says he cannot put a figure on how many asylum seekers are wanting to come to Australia.

But he says there are a lot of Sri Lankans and Afghans looking for refuge and Australia is acting in a humane way.

He denies the Opposition's claim that the increase in the number of boat arrivals is because of the winding back of the Pacific Solution.

"That one is not true, and two they don't advocate returning to the Pacific Solution. What we are trying to do is deal in a proper way, in a humane way with the reality of people fleeing persecution," he said.By Jakarta correspondent Geoff Thompson and staff

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Added: Oct-13-2009 Occurred On: Oct-12-2009
By: bellava
In:
Afghanistan, News
Tags: Asylum, seekers, 'threaten, to, blow, up, ship'
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