SELONG, INDONESIA (BNO NEWS) — Two Indonesian police officers were arrested on Saturday morning on suspicion of being involved in an operation to smuggle dozens of illegal immigrants from Africa to Australia, local authorities said.
First Brigadier ‘E.G.’ and Brigadier ‘M.K.’ from East Lombok police in the south-central province of West Nusa Tenggara are alleged to have been involved in the smuggling of illegal asylum seekers from Somalia and Eritrea. Indonesia is commonly used as a transit region for asylum seekers trying to reach Australia illegally.
East Lombok police chief Adjutant Senior Commander Agus Nugroho told the Jakarta Globe newspaper that both officers were handed over to the West Nusa Tenggara provincial police in order for legal procedures to continue. Police also identified four other Indonesians involved in the alleged smuggling case.
“There is no special treatment; they are treated the same as the four civilian suspects,” Agus said. The case was discovered when 34 illegal immigrants from Somalia and Eritrea became stranded on Sepang beach in Bontong village in the West Nusa Tenggara district of Sumbawa on April 15. Among the 34 asylum seekers were 24 men, nine women and a child.
The Jakarta Globe reported that each of the individuals paid Rp 25 million ($ 2,725) to the group to board a 12 by 3 meter (39 by 9 feet) wooden Australian-bound ship. Heavy waves, however, affected the ship, which ultimately broke down and ended up stranded on the beach.
Last year, Indonesia passed a law against people-smuggling as thousands of asylum seekers travel through Indonesia in their attempts to reach Australia. The new law imposed prison terms of up to 15 years and a large fine for those found guilty of helping to transport asylum seekers into the country.
In mid-February, five military officers and a civil servant were arrested after evidence surfaced which claimed they were involved in the human smuggling of more than 250 people off the coast of East Java in Indonesia in December 2011. The overloaded ship capsized off Prigi in East Java, killing more than 200 people. Only 47 people survived the incident.