by Tokana Hassavi Jnr – EM TV, World News
Australian officials are alleged to have paid thousands of dollars to people-smugglers bound for Australia, to turn their boats back to Indonesia.
The claim burst into the public scene last week, according to Fairfax Media, who reported that Australia paid $US30’000 to the crew of an asylum-seeker boat, to return the vessel to Indonesia.
On Monday in Canberra, a vocal opposition wanted Tony Abbott to clarify the payment claims.
Opposition Labor Party Leader, Bill Shorten, said the refusal to dismiss the reports would bolster the crime of people-smuggling.
According to Reuters, Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, and Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, last week explicitly said no payments were made to people-smugglers.
But both declined to repeat the denials, during the heated parliamentary debate on Monday.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has also declined to comment, citing operational and intelligence security.
Yesterday afternoon, a Sri Lankan migrant who was on board the repatriated vessel last week, told the shocking tale of how the boat crew was paid by Australian officials. And how they survived the trip, back to Indonesia.
There were 65 migrants on board, from Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, which included children and a pregnant woman.
Fairfax Media says the practice of intelligence agency officials paying members of people-smuggling networks including boat crews, goes back to 2010 under the then Rudd government.
But this most recent issue has sparked further tension between Canberra and Jakarta, with the Indonesian government demanding answers as well.