7 Jan 2014

Navy 'forced' asylum seeker boats back

9:06 pm on 7 January 2014

Police in Indonesia say the Australian navy has forced a second boat carrying asylum seekers back to Indonesian waters.

The first boat was found shortly before Christmas last year on an island called Rote in Indonesia's East Nusa Tenggara region, the ABC reports.

The 47 asylum seekers onboard told authorities they ran out of fuel and drifted after being "pushed" back by the Australian navy. They ran aground on the island about six days later.

Local police chief Hidayat says the asylum seekers had been on a boat trying to get to the Ashmore Islands. He said the group left South Sulawesi bound for Australia on 8 December and were intercepted on 13 December and forced back to Indonesian waters.

The incident was only reported in local Indonesian news until now after refugee rights activists noticed reports and posted them on Twitter.

Indonesian police have now told the ABC that a second boat carrying 45 asylum seekers has been found on the same island. That group also claims its boat was pushed back by the navy.

The Australian government has refused to discuss the first report, citing operational security and has not yet commented on the latest incident.