Amnesty international, a human rights organization, has released a report entitled “By hook or by crook.” Documented between 2013 and 2015, the report found the Australian government to be bribing crew members to locate the passengers away from Australia and back to their point of origin, Indonesia. The report contains personal accounts from self-proclaimed asylum-seekers, crew members, and the Indonesian police. The asylum-seekers, as recognized by Amnesty International, were likely fleeing persecution and conflict. The abuse detailed in the report shows that Australian officials intercepted a boat full of asylum-seekers who were leaving Indonesia, and accused the officials of denying access to medications needed by the asylum-seekers and other mistreatment.
“… a man who suffers from asthma said that he was not permitted to access his inhaler, which had been confiscated, and he suffered asthma attacks while confined to the cell [which he was placed in, by Australian officials, for 7 days].”
It was reported that $32,000 and maps for the destination to be directed to Indonesia were traded between the Australian officials and crew members. Amnesty International was able to interview the six crew members who were arrested for people smuggling, and learned that they had been directly told to land on Rote Island, an Indonesian island. In return for the aquatic conveyance to “Australia,” the asylum-seekers paid unnamed individuals $4,000.
In the report, an incident occurred in May where the Australian officials who boarded the boat told the passengers that they would be able to bathe if they boarded the Border Force ship. Fifty boarded the ship, and 15 remained on the first boat. A passenger of the remaining 15 witnessed the exchange of a white envelope between the crew members and the Australian officials:
“The crew told Amnesty International that two of them received 6,000 USD each, and four received 5,000 USD apiece, making a total of 32,000 USD.”
Of the 50 who boarded the Border Force ship, all were placed in cells and held there for 7 days. The cells were said to be cramped and without air conditioning. On the ship:
“… a number of people developed health problems. One woman said that she fainted three times from the heat and the stress, hitting her head on one occasion. An Australian doctor examined her but said he did not have permission to give her medicine. Another woman, who has blood pressure problems, claims that she was not allowed to take her own medicine, which had been taken away from her by the Australians.”
Amnesty International condemned the actions of the Australian officials and remarked that people smuggling is a transnational crime per international law which penalizes the smugglers, not the asylum-seekers.
Australia violated the legal principle of non-refoulement which
“…prohibits the transfer of individuals to another country or jurisdiction where they would face a real risk of persecution or other serious human rights violations or abuses… States are obliged to give individuals the opportunity to challenge their transfer (to another country or jurisdiction) on the grounds that such a transfer would put them at real risk of serious human rights violations or abuses… Australia turned back people, at least some of whom were asylum-seekers, without any assessment of each person’s individual situation, including the risk of serious human rights violations or abuses, either in the country to which they were being returned or in another country to which they might be sent.”
The Australian government has denied the accusations of bribery on behalf of the officials.