The Australian navy has paid a group of people smugglers thousands of dollars to turn around their boat carrying 65 migrants and head back to Indonesia, and while the controversy heats up surrounding this case, Prime Minister Tony Abbot Friday refused to deny this was true.
"We don't go into the details of operational measures to fight crime, we don't go into the details of operational measures on national security, and I'm certainly not going to go into the details of operational matters on the water now," Abbott told reporters.
Australia has vowed to stop the flow of asylum seekers reaching its shores when possible, adopting one of the harshest stances against migration globally.
But critics and activists have criticized the method of paying off smugglers - a case that is now being investigated by Indonesia.
The Australian government is sending those asylum seekers who do arrive in the country to prisons in Papua New Guinea and Nauru for long-term detention.
Australian and Indonesian news reports revealed earlier this week that the people-smugglers were paid about US$6,000 each to abandon their journey to Australia and return to Indonesia after being intercepted at sea.
The Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton have denied the reports, but Abbott has declined to do so, citing operational security, according to Reuters.
In Indonesia, the country's foreign ministry spokesperson Armanatha Nasir said the captain of the asylum-seeker vessel that was paid to return was being detained on charges related to people-smuggling.
Nasir said the captain and his five-member crew told him that they were each paid about US$6,000 to turn the ship back.