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Australians, Canadian held on human trafficking allegations

They reportedly posing as humanitarian activists helping asylum seekers stranded in Indonesia. -The Jakarta Post/ANN

Fri, Jan 29, 2010
The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network

Police in Merak, Banten province, have arrested two Australians and one Canadian on charges of human trafficking. National Police chief detective Comr. Gen.

Ito Sumardi identified the Australians as Sarah Nathan and Pamela Poor and the Canadian only as Jessica.

They were arrested on Tuesday, reportedly posing as humanitarian activists helping asylum seekers stranded in Indonesia, he said.

"We have preliminary evidence they were involved in human trafficking activities," Ito told The Jakarta Post.

"We need to question them for more information." He added he had not yet received a complete report about the arrest.

Local media reported on Wednesday that the foreigners were activists with the Refugee Action Coalition (RAC).

They are currently being detained at the Merak Police station.

Indonesian activists have criticized the arrest, saying the police did not have sufficient evidence to arrest the foreigners.

Mahendra, a local labor activist, said the women had come to Indonesia to monitor how Indonesia has handled the 200 or so Sri Lankan boat people stranded in Merak for three months on a boat designed to comfortably accommodate 50 people.

"They did not know why they were being arrested because the police officers did not have any arrest warrants," Mahendra said as quoted by on Tuesday.

On the boat, which only has one toilet, the asylum seekers survive on government rations that are far from adequate.

Many of the boat people suffer from various diseases including rashes and diarrhea. Indonesia is holding dozens of boat people from Afganistan, Pakistan and Myanmar elsewhere in the country.

Mahendra said the foreign activists were arrested at Indah Kiat Port near the boat where the Australia-bound Tamil boat people were being held by Indonesian authorities.

The Indonesian government has cooperated with Australia in the handling of asylum seekers.

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