Indonesia official says he’ll let boats continue to Australia

A senior Indonesian immigration official says he will no longer take measures to stop asylum seekers attempting to take boats to Australia as the fallout over the spying scandal continues.

The comments, from the head of immigration at the Law and Human Rights Agency in Medan, come as asylum seekers in Cisarua, south of the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, say they hope to take advantage of the breakdown in co-operation with Australia and may take boats in the coming days.

Several Sri Lankan asylum seekers told AAP they had read reports of a diplomatic crisis, in the wake of revelations Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s phone was bugged by Australian spies, and said they were desperate to try to make the crossing to Christmas Island soon.

However, eight Afghan asylum seekers, also in Cisarua, said on Saturday they were no longer interested in paying people smugglers to take them to Australia.

The head of immigration at the Law and Human Rights Agency in North Sumatra, Rustanov, who has only one name, said surveillance efforts aimed at stopping boat traffic would be halted.

“We have no business with Australia. Let boat people head there. No surveillance is needed,” he said, according to a report in the Jakarta Post.

The official said his office, in co-operation with police, had in the past frequently arrested asylum seekers attempting to take boats.

“Now there is no need to waste energy arresting them,” Rustanov said.

However, a senior official with the Yogyakarta immigration office, Tatang Suheryadin, said no new policy had been applied following the Indonesian government’s decision to suspend co-operation on anti-people smuggling efforts.

“The Immigration Director General at the Law and Human Rights Ministry has not issued any instructions on the issue,” Mr Tatang said.

West Java police chief Suhardi Alius said his office was waiting for instructions from the National Police regarding the handling of asylum seekers.