A group of Afghan asylum seekers have alleged that the Indonesian coast guard fired on their boat, wounding two, when a second coast guard vessel tried to stop them after they had handed over a $US50,000 ($54,206) bribe to a previous coast guard vessel. The 61 Afghans and 5 Indonesian crew, thinking they were in International waters, refused to stop and the Indonesian boat opened fire. The skipper, Jimmi, was shot once in each arm and wounded in the chin. The Afghan asylum seeker, Mr Heider, 21, was shot in the left shoulder.
The Indonesian police version is different. They claim that they only shot the two people after refusing a 20 million rupiah ($2,290) bribe from the Afghans and they tried to "escape". The police gave chase in their Australian-supplied fast patrol boat. When, after an hour, the Indonesian drew close they claim they could see the Indonesian skipper was being beaten and held hostage by an Afghan man, who was forcing him to keep heading for Australian waters. After repeated calls to stop and warning shots, police apparently fired at the skipper and the man forcing him to pilot the boat to "disable them". The police also claim that the Afghans were threatening to throw all the crew overboard.
In other news, Indonesia appear to be using a carrot and stick approach with the Oceanic Viking Tamils. For those that remain on board the Customs vessel, the Indonesian authorities have promised those that leave the ship voluntarily will have their permits to remain, most of which have previously been extended twice before prior to their leaving Indonesian territory, extended for a third time.
At the same time however, they have said that the 22 already in detention in Tanjung Pinang, must be resettled within a month if they have already been recognised as refugees by the UNHCR, thereby putting pressure on the Australians to process their asylum applications even swifter than the very public promise they made the Tamils. Meanwhile, notes have been thrown into the sea from the Oceanic Viking claiming that some of the remaining 56 Tamils were still terrified of returning to detention in Indonesia.
This coming weekend also sees yet another crisis meeting between the Australian and Indonesian heads of government, this time in the wings of the APEC leaders' summit, to try and clear up who is responsible for what. With no resolution to the Oceanic Viking saga in sight, it should be a tense affair.
The Indonesians however appear to be taking a much stronger line with the Jaya Lestari 5 Tamils in Merak harbour. According to a senior Indonesian Foreign Ministry official. "If Australia doesn't want to accept them and they don't want to come off the boat, we will ask the IOM (International Organisation for Migration) to return them to their country." Of the 7 Tamils who have already left the boat during the past month it has been moored off the West Java coast, one has already been deported and the other 6 are awaiting decisions on their UNHCR refugee status. Alternatively, they could forcibly deport the Tamils that do not have UNHCR status using an Indonesian Navy vessel.
The 6 Sri Lankans men mentioned in the previous post as having been held in the 'red block' on Christmas Island have been deported back to Sri Lanka together with 30 others who asylum applications were turned down.