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Indonesia threatens Australia with 'human tsunami'

March 11, 2015

Indonesia's security minister has threatened to release "over 10,000" illegal migrants to stop Canberra's appeals for clemency for two Australian drug traffickers. Ten convicts are on death row for drug-related crimes.

Indonesien Todesstrafe für Myuran Sukumaran
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Indonesia's minister for political, legal and security affairs, Tedjo Edy Purdjianto, said Tuesday that Australia would face a "human tsunami" if the 10,000 illegal migrants in Indonesia were allowed to proceed to their desired destination of Australia.

Nine foreigners and an Indonesian facing execution for drug crimes are being held on the penal island of Nusakambangan. Among them are two Australian nationals, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, the others being a Frenchman, a Brazilian, three Nigerians, as well as convicts from the Philippines and Ghana.

Australia's repeated calls for clemency for its two nationals have caused irritation, if not anger in Jakarta, leading ultimately to the latest harangue by the country' security minister.

"Indonesia has done a lot in preventing illegal migrants from other countries from going to Australia," Edy Purdjianto said on Tuesday, according to Indonesian media. "If Canberra keeps acting this way, Jakarta will certainly release migrants wanting to go to Australia."

As Australia has struggled to stem the rising tide of asylum-seekers, Indonesia has tacitly helped by holding them back in the transit hubs from which they risk the hazardous journey in rickety boats.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott reminded Jakarta last month that Australia had sent assistance worth a billion dollars after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami - a comment that led Indonesian protesters to return bags of coins to the Australian embassy in a symbolic gesture.

Australia has argued that Sukumaran and Chan have turned around their lives around while in detention, an argument not heeded by Indonesian President Joko Widodo who has steadfastly rejected all appeals for clemency.

The convicts' lawyers lodged a series of last-ditch judicial attempts which have led to the attorney general's office declaring last week that the executions may not take place this month - as originally planned.

Meanwhile, one of the death row convicts, French national Serge Areski Atlaoui has been taken from the Nusakambangan penal island on Tuesday to Tangerang near Jakarta, where the district court is scheduled to hear his case on Wednesday.

Sukumaran and Chan's case is also due for hearing at another court on Thursday.

ac/sms (AFP, AP, dpa)