MATARAM, September 11, 2009 (AFP) – Indonesia has detained 56 Afghan migrants off the eastern island of Lombok who were attempting to travel by wooden boat to Australia, a navy official said Friday. The migrants’ boat was intercepted in the waters near Papakan island east of Lombok last night, local navy official Colonel Nanang Eko Ismurdianto told reporters.
“Our suspicion for the time being is they were trying to sail to Australia. They started their journey from Jakarta,” he said, adding that they were all Afghan men.
Ismurdianto said some of the detained men were carrying identity cards issued by the Jakarta office of the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.
Three Indonesian boat crew were also arrested and were being questioned, he said.
One of the migrants, Mohammad Zeeshan, told reporters he was a web designer in Afghanistan who sold his home to seek asylum abroad and had travelled via Dubai, Sri Lanka, Singapore and Malaysia to Indonesia.
Zeeshan said he had paid 7,000 dollars to a middleman in the Indonesian capital Jakarta for his journey to Australia.
He described how he ended up on a boat with other Afghans after a two-day bus journey from Jakarta.