Oceanic Viking standoff ‘to end today’

15Jan

The month-long Oceanic Viking asylum seeker standoff looks set to come to an end today, with all 56 Tamils agreeing to leave the ship.

上海性息

The 46 men, five women and five children will enter the Tanjung Pinang Detention Centre, joining 22 men who left the Australian Customs vessel on Friday.

They were picked up more than a month ago in Indonesia’s search and rescue zone, eventually arriving at Bintan on October 26 – at which point they refused to leave the vessel.

They have now accepted a deal from Australia under which those already determined to be refugees would be resettled within four to six weeks.

“Australia said the migrants want to get off the ship. We’ll process them tomorrow (Wednesday),” said Indonesian foreign ministry official Sujatmiko.

Decision to disembark ‘welcomed’

On Tuesday, a spokesman for Australian Home Affairs Minister Brendan O’Connor said it was premature to comment on the planned departure of the 56 migrants.

“Basically the discussions between Australian and Indonesian authorities and the passengers continue and they are yet to disembark, so we don’t want to comment in advance of that,” he said.

“Of course we welcome any decision to disembark,” he added.

The standoff has caused a political headache for Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who has been under pressure on increasing arrivals that have seen about 2,000 boat people this year seeking asylum from countries such as Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.

Indonesia has said it is also making plans to deport 247 Sri Lankan migrants who have refused to leave a wooden boat moored at the Javanese port of Merak since last month.

Yesterday, the Australian navy stopped a boat carrying 41 suspected asylum seekers off its northwest coast, the fourth boat in a rash of arrivals that has seen 127 migrants intercepted since Saturday.

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