Jakarta. The president of Australia’s Human Rights Commission has been slammed by the country’s Immigration Minister after linking the April execution of two Bali Nine drug traffickers to the “turn back the boats” policy.
Speaking at the Committee for Economic Development of Australia in Adelaide on Thursday, Gillian Triggs said the influx of asylum-seeking boats must stop, but questioned if much thought had been given to the consequences of the controversial policy, which has strained relations between Indonesia and Australia in recent years.
“Is it any wonder that Indonesia will not engage with us on other issues that we care about, like the death penalty?” she said, as quoted by The Australian newspaper.
Noting the joint response of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand to the Rohingya refugee crisis, Triggs suggested the Australian government move toward a “proper diplomatic process for a regional solution.”
Australia’s Immigration Minister Peter Dutton on Friday deemed the comments an “outrageous slur” and called on the former lawyer to apologize to the Australian public and the families of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, who were executed on April 29 on Nusakambangan prison island, off the coast of Central Java.
More than 15 boats have been turned back to Indonesian waters since the “Operation Sovereign Borders” policy was introduced at the end of 2013.
The policy sees Australian Navy personnel hand out water and other supplies — and move asylum seekers on to a more seaworthy vessel if necessary — before towing boats back into Indonesian waters. It is often done without the support of local authorities Dutton said earlier this year.
On Sunday, a boat carrying 65 people, including five crew and a number of children, ran aground on a reef near Rote island off Indonesia’s East Nusa Tenggara province after being towed back by Australia’s Royal Australian Navy. The passengers were rescued by local fishermen.
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