Indonesian police said Australia sent back dozens of illegal migrants to a remote southern island after intercepting their vessel at sea. -PIC CREDIT: BERITA HARIAN
Indonesian police said Australia sent back dozens of illegal migrants to a remote southern island after intercepting their vessel at sea. -PIC CREDIT: BERITA HARIAN

JAKARTA: Indonesian police said Wednesday Australia sent back dozens of illegal migrants to a remote southern island after intercepting their vessel at sea, at least the second time this has happened this year.

The police chief of Indonesia's Rote Island told AFP the migrants landed last month in two boats they said they had been forced to board after an Australian vessel intercepted their wooden craft.

Police chief Mardiono, who like many Indonesians goes by just one name, said they initially received reports of a vessel running aground.

"After we checked, we found a boat... made from aluminium, without a name and without a flag," he said, adding it was carrying 22 people.

Later that day police found a similar vessel carrying another 22 men that ran aground on a different part of the island.

Mardiono said most of the men identified themselves as Bangladeshis and also included eight Rohingya from Myanmar. They were in custody at local police headquarters.

He said they claimed to have spent three days at sea before being intercepted by an Australian vessel.

They said they were detained for 18 days before being put aboard two boats and told to head to Rote island, he added.

Their claims could not be independently verified.

An Australian Border Force (ABF) spokesperson told AFP in a statement that it "does not confirm or comment on operational matters."

In June, Indonesian immigration authorities said in a statement that it detained 28 foreigners stranded on a beach on southern Java who said they had been set adrift after being intercepted by Australian authorities.

Under a hardline policy introduced more than a decade ago, Australia has sent thousands of migrants attempting to reach the country by boat to detention centres on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island and the tiny Pacific nation of Nauru.

Successive Australian governments have vowed that no asylum seeker arriving by boat will ever be allowed to permanently settle in the country. --AFP