Saturday, October 24, 2009
Some of the 78 Sri Lankan asylum seekers on board an Australian customs vessel are staging a hunger strike. The Oceanic Viking is making its way to the Indonesian port of Tanjung Pinang where the asylum seekers will be given temporary accommodation while their cases are processed. A spokesman for Australia's Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor said the men on the ship were refusing food but were drinking water. The women and children on board are not involved in the hunger strike. The spokesman said a doctor was on board and will continue to regularly check the passengers' health. The Oceanic Viking, which rescued the asylum seekers from their stricken boat inside Indonesia's search and rescue zone last Sunday, is taking the group to an Australia-funded detention centre on the Indonesian island of Bintan.Meanwhile, a top Indonesian official says Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's plan to pay Indonesia to intercept asylum seekers will top $A50 million, the ABC reports. Four boats carrying asylum seekers have been intercepted in in Australian waters in the past week alone. Indonesia's director-general of immigration has told the ABC Indonesia will need at least $A50 million to adequately process asylum seekers. He said at least $10 million for one checkpoint alone and at least five checkpoints are needed. But the Australian Government will not confirm the amount. Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor says Australia will continue working with Indonesia on the issue.