A group of Sri Lankan refugees who were trying to reach Australia when their boat became stranded off Indonesia during bad weather are set to be “escorted” back towards India, foreign media reports.
A pregnant woman and nine children are among the 44 people on board the boat that has been drifting around 300 metres off the coast of Lhoknga in Aceh since Saturday.
Following a meeting late on Wednesday between local and central government officials, including Vice President Jusuf Kalla, authorities say those on board will be allowed to come ashore while their boat is fixed, refueled and supplied with food.
But then they must leave. Describing the Sri Lankans as “illegal immigrants”, the head of the Aceh immigration division A. Samadan told foreign media that they had been rejected on four grounds, including a lack of travel documents and a failure to notify authorities of their intended arrival.
The boat will be escorted out of Indonesian waters towards India, Mr Samadan told AAP on Thursday.
However, he could not confirm when this would happen.
Amnesty International hit out at Indonesia for not allowing those on board to be properly processed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.