Prime Minister Tony Abbott has commented on a report claiming the Australian government sent asylum seekers back to Indonesia aboard a modern lifeboat.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has described pictures of a lifeboat aground in Indonesia as “rather arresting”.
But he wouldn’t say whether the vessel was used by Australian authorities to send back asylum seekers.
The sophisticated orange lifeboat was discovered by Indonesian authorities on the west coast of Java and was believed to be carrying around 60 asylum seekers, News Limited reports.
The “unsinkable” boat is reportedly one of 11 purchased by the Abbott government in a bid to stop asylum seekers from reaching Australia.
Operation Sovereign Borders commander Angus Campbell confirmed the purchase of lifeboats in mid-January but declined to say how they would be used.
When asked about the report, Mr Abbott said the government’s border protection policies were helping stop the flow of asylum seeker boats.
He made reference to a prospective asylum seeker quoted in the report as saying the passage to Australia was now closed.
“Well, thank you sir, the way is closed … and as far as this government is concerned never ever will it be reopened,” he told reporters in Brisbane on Saturday.
A spokesman for Immigration Minister Scott Morrison refused to comment about the lifeboats, saying the government would not provide details about operational matters related to border security.