JAKARTA, March 2, 2007 (AFP) – Indonesia said Friday that dozens of asylum seekers from Sri Lanka would be sent home and not allowed to stay if Australia decides to send the group back its way. Australia picked up 85 boat people last month after they passed through Indonesia and are holding them on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean. Australia has a strict policy of detention for asylum seekers.
Canberra suggested sending them back to Indonesia, but the Indonesian foreign ministry said Friday it would in turn only send them back to war-torn Sri Lanka. Two of the 85 are of other nationalities.
“We are ready to receive 83 Sri Lankan asylum seekers back to Indonesia with an understanding that this is only for a transit before we send them back to their country of origin,” ministry spokesman Kristiarto Legowo said.
Australia has said it will not breach international obligations or send the asylum seekers home if they would face persecution.
Sri Lanka has been wracked by separatist conflict for more than three decades. An upsurge in violence since late 2005 has claimed nearly 4,000 lives.