Indonesian lawmakers have slammed Australia’s decision to grant asylum to alleged Iraqi-born people smuggler Sajjad Hussain Noor, better known as Captain Emad Abdul Razak, and six of his associates.
Emad has been accused by the Indonesian government of smuggling dozens of people from Indonesia to Australia in the last several years.
“We are very disappointed,” Tantowi Yahya, a member of House of Representatives Commission I, overseeing foreign affairs, said on Tuesday in Jakarta.
“The decision to grant a visa and permit as well as protection for the people smugglers has damaged our joint efforts to combat people smuggling.”
According to an Australian Broadcasting Corporation news investigation, Emad posed as an asylum seeker to get into Australia in early 2010.
He was placed in detention on Christmas Island and given a protection visa and Australian residency on April 20, 2010, only three months after arriving.
Emad and other smugglers passed official security checks and went on to set up lucrative people-smuggling operations between Indonesian and Australia. He now lives just a few kilometers from the Australian Federal Police’s headquarters in Canberra, ABC news reported on Tuesday. The report also linked him to two ill-fated boats that sank before reaching Australia, killing almost 150 people.
Tantowi, from the Golkar Party, said he had called on Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa to lodge a formal protest with the Australian government over the issue.
Mahfudz Siddiq, from the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), said the asylum grant showed that Australia was not committed to fighting people smuggling. The Commission I chairman, urged the Australian government to revoke the asylum status granted to the alleged people smugglers.
Canberra said on Tuesday that it might revoke the visas granted to Emad and his associates. Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said “all steps” would be taken to ascertain whether a smuggler’s wife was working in his department and that officials would examine whether the visas of any other person needed reviewing.
Fourteen people smugglers had already been caught in Australia and charged, Bowen said, but would not say if Emad or his colleagues were under investigation.
“The Australian Federal Police takes these allegations seriously and will examine all information,” he told Sky News.
Additional reporting from AFP