Indonesia arrests 31 Afghan asylum seekers

Indonesian police have arrested more than 30 Afghan asylum seekers who were attempting to travel to Australia, a report said Friday.

Police said the men, aged between 20 and 40, had passed through Thailand and Malaysia before being detained on Thursday night in Jambi province on Sumatra island, the state-run news agency Antara reported.

"The police arrested 31 Afghan immigrants because they did not have passports or other official documents," Jambi police chief Yassir told the agency.

Parman Ali, one of the Afghans, said he and the other men were trying to get to Australia.

"Our goal was to go to Australia to seek asylum because our country is still troubled, and therefore we hope the United Nations will help and protect us," Parman told Antara.

Indonesia is not signatory to the UN Convention on Refugees, and asylum seekers are regularly locked up as illegal immigrants.

The arrests come 10 days after a boat of around 70 Afghan, Iranian and Pakistani asylum seekers capsized and sank off the coast of Pangadaran city on Java island, leaving eight dead.

The boat was destined for Kupang on the western part of Timor island, a key transit point for refugees trying to reach Australia.

Thousands of asylum seekers head through Southeast Asian countries on their way to Australia every year and many link up with people smugglers in Indonesia for the dangerous sea voyage.

Canberra has failed in its efforts to set up a regional processing centre in neighbouring countries in an attempt to reduce the flow of asylum seekers heading to Australia.


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