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NZ asylum seekers ‘Australia bound’

A large group of asylum seekers intercepted in Indonesian waters who were initially thought to be heading to New Zealand may have actually been targeting Australia.

深圳桑拿网

The 85 Tamils, who were caught by Indonesia’s maritime police on Saturday night, are still refusing to leave their boat, which is moored at the port of Tanjung Pinang in the Riau Islands off Sumatra.

While they said on Monday that they wanted to go to New Zealand, it’s possible they may have been making their way to Australia.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key on Tuesday again said that his country would not accept the group, adding that it would send the wrong message to people smugglers and other asylum seekers.

But he also said it was possible Canada or Australia was the actual target.

“I can’t confirm exactly where the boat was going,” Mr Key said.

“Some of the indications that the captain’s given is that they wanted to come to New Zealand but there’s other indications on the boat that they wanted to go to Canada. Australia’s also a possibility.”

It’s also understood that no maps were found on board the ship that would allow the group to navigate to New Zealand.

The head of the Tanjung Pinang immigration office, Hasan Basri, said that it was possible the asylum seekers, some of whom have said they were fleeing violence in Sri Lanka, may now ask to be resettled in Australia.

“They still insist on staying on the ship and want to leave to a third country – if it’s not New Zealand, then Australia or Canada,” Mr Basri told AAP.

“It’s a difficult situation because we cannot force them to get off the ship, but we also cannot let them leave.”

The asylum seekers had demanded to speak with officials from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) who were not expected to arrive at the port until Wednesday.

Mr Key said accepting the group into New Zealand would send the wrong message to people smugglers and other asylum seekers.

“Once you start taking people in the form of people smugglers, you are rewarding the bad guys, you are rewarding people who are putting others’ lives at risk,” he told New Zealand’s TV3.

“If you are going to take this boat, there are just thousands and thousands of other boats which will come.”

Mr Key said New Zealand took a humane approach to the refugee issue but it would not reward people who did not seek asylum through the “normal” channels.

“While they’re not anywhere near our waters, the message is a very clear one – we don’t want people coming to New Zealand in this form,” the prime minister said.

“Frankly, that’s the way it should be because there’s a very clear pathway, it’s fair to people, and that is you come through the normal channels as a refugee, otherwise you’re jumping the queue.”

The stand-off at Tanjung Pinang, which on Tuesday entered its second day, comes almost two years after a similar incident which lasted six months involving 255 Sri Lankan asylum seekers who were stopped while heading to Australia.

The Jaya Lestari 5 was intercepted on October 11, 2009, and taken to the Javan port of Merak after then Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd personally called Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

It is understood the group intercepted on Saturday night bought their vessel in Indonesia.

The International Organisation for Migration was assisting the group while authorities waited for UNHCR officials to arrive.

 

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