Boat People

TANJUNG PINANG, October 27, 2009 (AFP) – An Indonesian provincial governor refused Tuesday to allow an Australian customs vessel to unload 78 Sri Lankan asylum-seekers, saying Indonesia is not a “dumping ground” for refugees. Opposition to the arrival of the migrants came as Australia stressed it was not trying to push asylum-seekers back onto Indonesia, the main transit country for migrants hoping to reach Australia by boat.

Indonesia agreed to take the Sri Lankans on humanitarian grounds after the Australian navy rescued them off the Indonesian island of Sumatra last week.

But the governor of Riau Islands province, where the migrants are expected to be housed in a detention centre while their refugee claims are processed, said they were Australia’s problem.

“We ban the Australian vessel carrying 78 Sri Lankan migrants from coming ashore at Kijang port,” Governor Ismeth Abdullah said.

“Unless there’s an order from the president, the ship cannot come ashore. We’re not a dumping ground for other countries.”

The migrants are currently aboard an Australian customs boat, the Oceanic Viking, which has been anchored about 14 kilometres (8.7 miles) off the Riau port of Kijang since Monday morning. It had bee