Indonesian authorities detained 67 allegedly illegal asylum seekers from Palestine as they headed to Australia’s Christmas Island on Tuesday morning.
Police arrested the immigrants, 35 men, 17 women, nine children and six infants, in Cisancang village in Garut, West Java.
They arrived on a bus at the village’s Pamengpeuk beach, not far off which a suspicious cargo ship was anchored.
“Garut Water Police and Garut District Police made the arrest,” National Police spokesman Saud Usman Nasution said in Jakarta on Tuesday.
He added police were investigating Indonesians’ likely involvement in the alleged smuggling of the asylum seekers.
Saud explained that police were tipped off after a report from villagers saying they saw a suspicious cargo ship anchored in the waters off the beach, which faces the Indian Ocean.
Huge waves prevented police from checking the ship, but then the bus carrying the 67 Palestinian passengers arrived.
“There was someone yesterday asking around if he could rent a boat to carry some passengers to the cargo ship. Our officers investigated the report and this morning the group of Palestinians arrived,” Saud said.
He added it was not yet clear where the Palestinians came from, but said they were now in the detention center at the Garut Police station.
Police have contacted the immigration office and the International Organization for Migration to address the problem.
(www.thejakartaglobe.com / 06.03.2012)