Cash To Indonesia To Deter Refugees

Cash to Indonesia to deter refugees

Cath Hart
The Australian
May 04, 2007

AUSTRALIA will boost its funding to organisations processing asylum claims in Indonesia in a bid to deter people-smugglers.

The package of measures to befunded in next Tuesday's federal budget includes a joint Australian-Indonesian taskforce of immigration and police agencies to increase “detection, investigation and prosecution of people-smugglers”, Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews said yesterday.

Mr Andrews announced the plan after meeting with Indonesia's Law and Human Rights Minister Hamid Awaludin and Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda this week in Indonesia, which is widely regarded as aregional hub for people-smuggling operations.

Despite a decline in the number of unauthorised boat arrivals coming to Australia, Immigration Department sources say the tactics being used by people-smugglers in the region have become increasingly sophisticated over recent months.

The budget package also includes additional funding of $7million for the International Organisation of Migration in Indonesia, a non-government organisation, that usually receives $3.5 million a year from the Australian government.

Mr Andrews announced extra funding of $450,000 for the UN High Commission for Refugees to “conduct more refugee status determinations”.

Currently, the federal Government gives about $2 million a year to UNHCR global operations through AusAid and the Immigration Department.

“These arrangements provide a safe and humane alternative tounsafe and illegal maritime ventures promoted by people-smugglers,” Mr Andrews said.

Other initiatives include a movement alert detection system at major ports in Indonesia.

The system would be installed in smaller ports after the initial rollout, Mr Andrews said.

The Australian revealed in March that Mr Andrews hoped to boost the role Indonesia played in processing people-smugglers.

Critics dubbed the move the “Southeast Asian Solution” or the “Indian-Ocean Solution”, in reference to the expanded role the Government expected other countries in the region to play in processing the asylum claims of people who tried to come to Australia.

Negotiations to expand the role Indonesia played began in February when the Australian Government tried to send a group of 83 Sri Lankans asylum-seekers back to the archipelago.

Negotiations for a future partnership continued, despite failing to secure an agreement from Jakarta to process the group in accordance with UN protocols.

Mr Andrews yesterday described his visit to Jakarta as “highly successful” in progressing joint initiatives to “detect and prevent threats to our borders”.

“People-smuggling is a regional problem,” he said.

“These measures are part of the ongoing development of a regional solution.”

The Government has been keen to remind voters of its uncompromising stance on people-smuggling ahead of the federal election.

The issue proved a vote-winner in 2004, when the Coalition's staunch anti-people-smuggling platform was credited with boosting its electoral appeal in times of global uncertainty and returning it to government.

Labor immigration spokesman Tony Burke did not return calls yesterday.