JUDITH IRELAND July 18, 2012
Five Indonesian soldiers have been arrested for alleged involvement in a people-smuggling operation.
The five members of the Indonesian military were arrested this morning in the company of 41 asylum seekers, believed to be en route to Australia.
It’s understood the soldiers, who were in uniform, were escorting the asylum seeker group to a beach in south west Java where they would board a boat to Australia.
The asylum seekers are believed to be from Iran and Syria.
This comes as Australian authorities intercepted a boat carrying 65 suspected asylum seekers north of Christmas Island overnight.
The arrests also come as another five Indonesian soldiers await trial over alleged involvement in organising an asylum seeker boat that sank on its way to Australia last year.
As many as 200 people drowned when the overloaded boat, packed with about 250 asylum seekers, sank off the coast of East Java.
Just 49 people survived the tragedy, which occurred in rough monsoonal seas on December 17.
According to Customs, 85 asylum seeker boats have arrived in Australian waters this year, carrying 6026 passengers.
A further boat has arrived at Cocos Island today carrying 55 people — including a woman and three children.
The boat was met by a Customs inflatable craft as it arrived at the west island in the tiny Australian territory in the Indian Ocean early this morning.
With Daniel Flitton, agencies