Indonesia gives Australian refugee boat more time
Fri, Oct 30, 2009

JAKARTA - Indonesia on Friday gave an Australian customs boat another week to end a standoff with 78 Sri Lankan asylum seekers who are refusing to disembark on Indonesia's Bintan island.

A deadline for the Oceanic Viking ship to leave Indonesian waters was due to expire on Friday but foreign ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said it had been extended to November 6.

Indonesia has agreed to accept the rescued Australia-bound migrants for humanitarian reasons but it would not force them to leave the Australian vessel, which has been anchored off Bintan since Monday, he said.

"We have agreed to facilitate the migrants in Indonesia temporarily. We have made a commitment to give humanitarian assistance but if they don't want to come ashore we cannot force them," he said.

"We have shown good will. We tried to process them but they refused. The problem is now Australia's," he said.

The ethnic Tamil migrants were found by the Australian navy in Indonesia's search and rescue zone off the southern Sumatran coast 12 days ago, shortly after they left Indonesia in a rickety boat bound for Australia.

Their plight became a diplomatic as well as physical standoff when the migrants refused to disembark the Australian ship or cooperate with Indonesian immigration officials.

Australia says the migrants are Indonesia's responsibility according to the laws of the sea, but Indonesia says they cannot be forced off the ship.



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