People-smuggler accusations a “disgrace,” Australian minister says

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Sydney (dpa) – The Australian government on Thursday rejected a report by Amnesty International that said Australian officials paid people smugglers to return asylum seekers to Indonesia.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said Amnesty’s report, which was released earlier Thursday, was “a disgrace” and a “slur” against the people who worked to protect Australia’s borders.

Speaking on commercial radio 2GB, Dutton said Amnesty did not like the government’s policy “and the fact we’ve stopped the boats, but we are not going to stop our resolve.”

“We are not going to be bullied into some watering down of that,” he said.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told reporters that Australian officials were acting in accordance with the law and the country’s international obligations.

Amnesty’s findings, based on interviews with crew members in prison, appeared to support earlier news reports of the May incident, but the government, then led by Tony Abbott, has persistently refused to comment.

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