Two Indonesians Jailed For 5 Years For People Smuggling in Australia

Sri Lankan asylum seekers ended their hunger strike on Saturday.
They were intercepted in Indonesian waters en route to Australia

Two Indonesians who crewed a boat that carried asylum seekers into Australian waters earlier this year were sentenced Wednesday to five years in prison for people smuggling. Australia is caught up in a political battle over an increasing number of boat arrivals with people from poor, often war-ravaged countries hoping to start a new life. Many pay thousands of dollars to travel to Malaysia or Indonesia and then risk the dangerous ocean crossing to Australia. Mohamad Tahir and another man known only as Beny pleaded guilty to illegally bringing five or more people into Australia before their sentencing at the Northern Territory Supreme Court in Darwin. The two young men, who did not know their ages, were crew members aboard a boat intercepted by the Australian navy on April 15. The boat was being taken to Australia’s Christmas Island the next day when it exploded and caught fire, killing five asylum seekers and injuring more than 40. An Australian police investigation determined the fire had been deliberately set by one of the passengers. Justice Dean Mildren said he would have imposed a lower sentence if there hadn’t been a mandatory minimum sentence of five years, because the men were from poor fishing families and had little education. “You were lured into the task, you expected to be caught, you were told you would return home after a short time,’’ he said in court. The men must serve three years of their term before parole is possible. The judge recommended that the federal attorney-general consider releasing the men after 12 months due to their ages, personal circumstances and offers of assistance to Australian authorities. The boat crews are usually fishermen driven by poverty to smuggle people for relatively lucrative fees offered by organizers, who are rarely caught themselves.

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