CANBERRA, Australia -- The government refused to comment on a newspaper report that Australia is buying lifeboats to carry asylum seekers back to Indonesian islands.

Fairfax Media newspapers reported on Wednesday that Australia was buying 16 engine-powered and enclosed lifeboats for border protection boats to carry as an alternative to rescuing asylum seekers found in unseaworthy vessels.

Crews on boats smuggling people have resorted to sabotaging engines or sinking their vessels to avoid their ships being turned back to Indonesia by Australian border protection crews.

By putting asylum seekers into safe lifeboats and sending them back to Indonesian islands, Australia is likely to risk further angering Indonesia, which opposes the government's policy of turning back boats full of asylum seekers.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison refused to comment on the report.