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Premier says take asylum seekers to Christmas Island – PerthNow

[MISC, Wednesday, 11 November 2009 09:48 No Comment]

AUSTRALIA needs to take responsibility for the 78 asylum seekers on a customs ship in Indonesian waters, West Australian Premier Colin Barnett says.

Despite his federal coalition colleagues believing the asylum seekers should not enter Australia, Mr Barnett told ABC Radio the matter needed to be dealt with promptly.

Ethnic Tamils have spent weeks onboard the Australian customs vessel Oceanic Viking, after they were rescued in Indonesian waters.

The asylum seekers have threatened suicide and refused to leave the boat, which has been anchored off the Indonesian island of Bintan for more than two weeks.

Mr Barnett acknowledged there was no easy solution, but Australia “needs to deal with it”.

“I don’t think Australia is doing itself any good at all by having 78 asylum seekers on an Australian quasi naval boat in Indonesian waters,” Mr Barnett said.

“We are almost letting our immigration policy be dictated to by the Indonesian government.

“Well, come on Australia, we’ve got to take responsibility.

“I don’t like this solution, but I think Australia has really little option but to take them to Christmas Island … sort them out, find out who might be genuine asylum seekers, who are not, and deal with it.”

Lib MP Kevin Andrews says force may have to be used

Force might have to be used to remove 78 Tamil asylum seekers from an Australian customs vessel in Indonesia, former immigration minister Kevin Andrews says.

The Rudd government has said it has “infinite” patience to resolve the stand-off between authorities and the 78 Tamils aboard the Oceanic Viking, which has been anchored off the Indonesian island of Bintan for more than two weeks.

But with the group still refusing to leave the vessel, Indonesia’s patience is running out.

It is uncertain whether the vessel will be given an extension to remain in Indonesian waters beyond Friday’s deadline.

Mr Andrews, who was immigration minister in the Howard government, on Wednesday said the asylum seekers should be disembarked in Indonesia or another solution found.

“But just to allow them to essentially have a political ransom over this boat, which is wanted elsewhere for its customs work, I think is a ridiculous situation,” he told Macquarie Radio Network.

“Ultimately, force may have to be applied,” he said.

The Rudd government has said it would not use force to disembark the asylum seekers, while Indonesia maintains it is Australia’s responsibility to offload the group.

Mr Andrews said the Rudd government was “lacking will” to resolve the stand-off.

“Let’s remember that these people apparently spent some years in Indonesia, so in a sense they’re being returned to Indonesia,” he said.

“I think the easiest resolution would be to simply say to them, look, we’ve run out of patience, we’re not infinitely patient, we’ve been quite reasonable, but we’ve come to the point where you have to disembark.”

The asylum seekers were rescued on October 18 by the Oceanic Viking in Indonesia’s search and rescue zone.

Indonesia had agreed to take the group, which was supposed to be offloaded on Bintan and transferred to the Tanjung Pinang detention centre.

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