Australian PM Caught Paying Criminal Syndicates To Return Migrants Home

Australian PM Caught Paying Criminal Syndicates To Return Migrants Home

Prime Minister Tony Abbott dodged new questions on Sunday about whether Australian officials paid people smugglers thousands of dollars to return 65 asylum seekers to Indonesia, saying only that his government is "prepared to do what is necessary to keep the boats stopped".

Mr Abbott was asked four direct questions about the claims in Canberra on Sunday, including whether Australian taxpayers had a right to know the government was funding a criminal syndicate.

Both Abbott and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton would not comment on the operation.

The questions come after the United Nations interviewed asylum seekers who allegedly witnessed the handover of money, prompting Abbott to be asked whether the Australian government would be launching an investigation into the claims.

"Again I keep making the point the only question that matters is, is this government prepared to do what is necessary to keep the boats stopped, the answer is yes," said a typically dismissive Abbott, who is known have a flagrant disregard for the rule of law if it interferes with what he sees as his moral duty.

When asked if he believed it "didn't matter" that Australia was funding people smugglers, he responded:

"What I am saying is that we keep the boats stopped, that's the important thing. We will do whatever is reasonably necessary consistent with the principles of a decent and humane society to keep the boats stopped. That's what we will do."

"Unfortunately we know the Labor party will start them up again. It's interesting the Labor party is now asking about people smugglers and their financing. The Labor party put the people smugglers into business," Abbott said, in an attempt to deflect blame to his political rivals.

The United Nations revealed it had interviewed asylum seekers in Indonesia who repeated allegations that Australian officials paid human traffickers thousands of dollars to return to Indonesia.

James Lynch, the regional director of the United Nations High Commission On Human Rights (UNHCR), said that the asylum seekers were held on a Customs vessel for four days before being put on two blue boats and returned to Indonesia.

"The boat that was rescued by the Indonesian navy on 31 May - we have interviewed the 65 passengers and they have said that the crew received a payment," Mr Lynch told the BBC.

"What we were told - this is unconfirmed - but what we were told by the 65 passengers is that they were intercepted by a naval vessel from Australia. And then they were transferred to a customs boat where they spent four days. And then they were put on two blue boats and then sent back to Indonesia," he said.

UNHCR head Antonio Guterres has strongly criticized Australia for paying off criminal gangs.

"We need to crack down on smuggling and trafficking: not paying to them, but putting them in jail whenever possible, or prosecuting them," he said to the BBC.

"But at the same time protecting the victims, and with each country assuming also its responsibilities in relation to the protection of refugees," he said.

A number of government ministers have refused to confirm or deny if people smugglers were paid by Australian officials, citing the vague "on water" matters.

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