Indonesian police arrested four men on Sunday on suspicion of trying to smuggle 77 illegal immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan to Australia by boat, the state news agency said. The four will be charged with breaking immigration regulations as Indonesia has no law against people-smuggling even though it is one of the main transit routes for migrants trying to reach Australia. “We have named them criminal suspects for breaching immigration law,” Edy Purwanto, a police chief in East Java province, was quoted by Antara news agency as saying. “They are now being held in police custody for further interrogation,” he added. The 52 men, 13 women and 12 children were intercepted by police off eastern Java Island earlier this week after their boat, en route to Australia, suffered an engine failure and drifted for about eight hours.
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 voyage.