UNHCR to screen Vietnamese boat people in Indonesia
The UNHCR office in Indonesia today (Friday) sent a refugee status determination officer to the island of Galang to help screen a group of Vietnamese boat people intercepted by Indonesia earlier this week on their way to Australia. The group of 31 people, who include women and small children, are currently detained at the Batam immigration facility on Galang, a few kilometres south of Singapore. They were taken to the facility on Thursday, after their unseaworthy vessel broke down and was found beached off Galang Island. There were unconfirmed reports of another Vietnamese boat carrying 41 people that was reportedly headed for Australia. UNHCR usually helps screen asylum seekers in Indonesia, which lies along one of Asia's main people smuggling routes but it does not have a refugee status determination system of its own.
In the early 1990s, Galang Island hosted thousands of boat people from Viet Nam but the facility has been little used in recent years.