Immigration to Probe Report Over People Smuggling

JAKARTA

The Immigration Department will investigate claims that corrupt officials are colluding with people smugglers blamed for sending boatloads of asylum seekers to Australia, a spokesman said.

An investigative report by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Four Corners programme late on Monday accused Indonesian law-enforcement officials of involvement in people-smuggling activities.

“We’ll check the report. We’ll find out what’s in it, how true the information is, and get concrete details,” Immigration Department spokesman Maroloan Barimbing said.

“If we check the information and learn that it’s not true, then the report only tarnishes our image. If it’s true then it will help us to work better.”

The ABC’s online publicity for the show says that while Australia funds detention centres for illegal immigrants in Indonesia, Indonesian officials are secretly helping to send migrants to Australia in rickety boats.

Entitled Smuggler’s Paradise, the programme includes footage from hidden cameras apparently showing refugees cutting deals with politically connected travel agents and military officers to secure their passage to Australia.

One of the officials accused in the report of taking bribes to release migrants from detention centres, retired immigration department enforcement director Muchdor, denied the report.

He said the Australian journalists had been mislead by disgruntled migrants.

“Some (migrants) asked to be released but I didn’t agree, so maybe they made up such a story… Money was never mentioned in the requests,” he said, adding that he was not concerned by the Four Corners allegations.

A Foreign Ministry official urged the documentary team to share their findings with the authorities.

“The people who did the report should share evidence with us so we can track the sources. We’ll certainly follow it up, take necessary action and pursue the case legally,” the official, Sujatmiko, said.

An increase in the number of asylum-seekers arriving by boat from Asian trouble-spots has provoked heated political debate in Australia ahead of upcoming elections.

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