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Asylum seekers still haven't docked -

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Asylum seekers still haven't docked

Broadcast: 26/10/2009

Reporter: Geoff Thompson

Indonesia correspondent Geoff Thompson reports the 78 asylum seekers remain aboard Australian
customs ship the Oceanic Viking, despite being expected to dock near Tanjung Pinang, Indonesia
today.

Transcript

TONY JONES, PRESENTER: After a week on board the Australian customs ship the Oceanic Viking, the 78
asylum seekers still haven't been taken ashore for processing by the Indonesians. They were
expected to dock at Kijang Port near Tanjung Pinang today, but that hasn't happened. Indonesia
correspondent Geoff Thompson is in Tanjung Pinang and joins us now on the phone.

Well, Geoff, what is happening?

GEOFF THOMPSON, INDONESIA CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tony, I'm at - still at Kijang Port and the dark is
well and truly fallen and we're just about the only people here. There isn't much happening here.
I've just been talking to someone who's been on a boat out to look at the Oceanic Viking again.
They got within sight of it. (Inaudible) any vessels around it. So it doesn't look like there's
going to be a boat-to-boat transfer overnight, which some people had suggested. But the last
opportunity to actually put in here was when the tide was reasonably high - just before it got
dark. That window of opportunity has passed. So now I guess we're looking at tomorrow before the 78
Sri Lankans can be off-loaded here at Kijang Port and taken to the Australian funded detention
centre in Tanjung Pinang.

TONY JONES: We have heard that there was some effort for Indonesian authorities to reach the ship
by going out in small boats themselves. Did that actually happen?

GEOFF THOMPSON: Yes, it did. I was - we've left Kijang Port and just went about 10 minutes down the
road to a small - very small little naval base, and Immigration officials boarded a small naval
patrol boat and headed out. But at that time there was a storm; a very localised storm sort of came
over this stretch of tidal water that runs between a couple of the islands here where the port is.
And I think because of that, they turned back and didn't actually make it out there. We understand
they wanted to do some of the processing there. Customs people wanted to do some health checks,
that sort of thing and the Immigration officials wanted to begin their processing onboard the
Oceanic Viking. But that hasn't happened, and that, of course, has meant that the bureaucratic
wheel is gone from moving slowly to perhaps grinding to a halt, at least until tomorrow.

TONY JONES: Geoff, do we know why the ship just doesn't simply dock and unload the people so that
they can be processed ashore? Wouldn't that be the safest and the easiest option?

GEOFF THOMPSON: Look, it would be. I think part of the problem is that the wheels of Indonesian
bureaucracy are turning quite slowly. This order very much came from the top: it came from Susilo
Bambang Yudhoyono after his meeting with Kevin Rudd. There has been some disquiet from the Navy,
from Immigration officials, from the Department of Foreign Affairs itself. I think that no one was
particularly happy with this solution to this particular situation and because of that, there is a
bit of, "Well, you know, it's OK for the president to make an order, but we've got orders to give;
we've got things to arrange." There hasn't been a lot of activity today for instance at the
Immigration detention centre itself and there doesn't seem to be a sense of immediacy. There are -
officials have come and gone from the port, as has an Australian Customs official. But I think that
there's a feeling that there are preparations to be made, and also this port here, (inaudible) tide
does go up and down, so for a ship of the size of the Oceanic Viking, the windows of opportunity
are not that many throughout the daylight hours.

TONY JONES: Finally, and briefly, Geoff, is there any more word on the accusations of ill treatment
of asylum seekers at the detention centre?

GEOFF THOMPSON: Well, indeed, we know that six people connected with the centre, Immigration
officials and guards at the centre are currently being investigated by Indonesian police, given
that just two weeks ago, when there was an escape attempt made by some of the Afghans - 18 escaped,
three remain at large. But the ones that got back actually say they were beaten up and made these
allegations to the police and the police are now investigating.

TONY JONES: Geoff Thompson, we'll leave you there. We thank you very much for that.