Sikakap, Indonesia -
More than 50 Australia-bound asylum seekers have refused to disembark from their boat after it was found stranded off Indonesia's Sumatra island a week ago, officials said on Friday.
Sikakap district police chief Surya Negara said that the boat, which transported 53 Sri Lankans, including three children and four women was found drifting near Mentawai island on Saturday, September 1st when it ran out of fuel.
“They refused to get off the boat, saying that they want to continue their journey to Christmas Island (in Australia). They want 2 000 litres of fuel to sail back to sea,” Negara told AFP.
In a letter to a local immigration office, the asylum seekers threatened to go on hunger strike. It said “We will not eat until we die,” according to the letter seen by an AFP correspondent.
Negara said that local authorities have been in touch with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), but as the island was so remote, it takes time to reach the location.
“Up until now, they refused food or medical treatment. But based on our observation they still have enough food on their boat,” he said.
Australia is facing a steady influx of asylum-seekers arriving by boat, many of whom run into trouble on rickety vessels in Indonesian waters after fleeing their home countries.
Indonesia has long been a transit country for illegal migration to Australia. Hundreds of boatpeople have died en route to the country this year. - Sapa-AFP