Australian officials are being accused of breaking international law after 42 Vietnamese asylum seekers were allegedly sent back to Vietnam after arriving in Australian waters by boat.
A small wooden vessel was spotted off of Australia’s northwest coast last week, the BBC reports. It was apparently carrying the asylum seekers, whose status is currently unknown.
Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott has refused to reveal what happened to the migrants, simply stating that the Australian government stance was to “do what we have always done, and that is to act in accordance with Australia’s interest.” Canberra has recently adopted a policy of “tow-backs,” forcing migrant boats away when they enter national waters.
Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, who belongs to the Australia Greens party, has called for greater transparency in the case, the BBC reports.
“Handing these people directly over to the Vietnamese Government constitutes refoulement, which is a breach of the Refugee Convention,” she said in a statement.
Australia courted controversy recently with allegations that officials paid people smugglers bound for its shores to turn around. Abbott has refused to comment on the claims, which if confirmed would amount to participation in human trafficking, say human-rights activists.