A rather gross example of “asylum-seekers” being anything but

Family First senator Steve Fielding has questioned whether 78 Sri Lankan asylum-seekers, who have “hijacked” an Australian customs boat, are real refugees. It has been revealed that most of the ethnic Tamil group, who are refusing to leave the Oceanic Viking moored off Indonesia’s coast, have been living in the country for years. In written messages thrown off the boat, Fairfax newspapers reported the asylum seekers as saying they’d been living in Indonesia for as long as five years and had been accepted by the United Nations office in Jakarta as genuine refugees.

Senator Fielding said on Sunday it was the first he’d heard of the development but questioned whether the group, whose spokesman is a man called Alex, really were legitimate asylum seekers. “I remember the first phone call we took from, I think Alex, his English wasn’t so good,” he told Network Ten. “Within two weeks his English is better than mine, so I’m not so sure how genuine some of these people are.”

The group were meant to be offloaded from the ship under a deal struck between Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. But they haven’t budged for two weeks and Senator Fielding said the situation was bamboozling the federal government. “This is our boat, it’s been hijacked by the refugees, and the Rudd government hasn’t got a clue what to do,” he said.

Senator Fielding said Labor’s border protection policies were attracting more asylum seekers to Australia. “People smugglers are using these laws to send more people our way,” he said. “That is a huge concern, something needs to be done. “The Rudd government has a band-aid solution, the Indonesian solution is an Indonesian fiasco and it’s clearly not working.”

Senator Fielding said every time one asylum seeker was granted an Australian visa, another who had been waiting their turn in a refugee camp missed out. “Those people trying to jump the queue should go to the back of the queue,” he said.