KUPANG, Indonesia - The Australian navy has turned an asylum-seeker boat back to Indonesia without first informing authorities there, Indonesian police said Tuesday, as part of Canberra's hardline border policies that have angered Jakarta.
It is the first reported instance in which the new Australian government has turned a boat back without Indonesian cooperation, and could add to recent tensions between Jakarta and Canberra sparked by a spying row.
The boat was carrying 45 immigrants, mostly from Somalia and Sudan, and arrived on Rote Island in eastern Indonesia in the early hours of Monday, Rote Ndao district police chief Hidayat told AFP.
"Based on interviews with the asylum seekers, they had entered Australian waters near (the Australian territory of) Ashmore Reef on January 4 and were intercepted by an Australian naval boat," said Hidayat, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.
"The Australian boat accompanied the vessel and pushed it back to Indonesian waters towards Rote island," Hidayat said, adding the asylum seekers were given life vests and a water pump.