Indonesian, Australian Leaders To Discuss People Smuggling : Ministry

Indonesian, Australian leaders to discuss people smuggling: ministry

The Channel News Asia
December 10, 2008

JAKARTA (AFP) Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will discuss the fight against people smuggling during talks in Bali on Wednesday, a government official said.

The issue will be raised on the sidelines of a regional forum on democracy after a spate of illegal arrivals in Australia of immigrants who transited through Indonesia, the foreign ministry official said.

The talks come as Indonesia investigates reports that its diplomats in strife-torn Afghanistan have been selling visas to people intending to illegally enter Australia through “snakehead” smuggling rings.

Foreign affairs ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah played down the allegations and said they had not damaged ties between Indonesia and Australia.

“There are no damaged relations between Indonesia and Australia. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd plan to discuss the issue at the Bali Democracy Forum,” he said.

“We are investigating our embassy in Kabul over the allegation of corruption related to the issuance of Indonesian visas for Afghan migrants,” he added.

The visas were being sold for up to 1,500 dollars each, according to Afghans living in Australia quoted by The Australian newspaper.

Faizasyah said officials in Jakarta had to approve all visas and corruption of the kind alleged in the report “should be easily detected.”

Indonesian police, reportedly acting in cooperation with Australian police, arrested two alleged trafficking kingpins last week in what has been hailed as a major breakthrough in the battle against people smugglers.

A Pakistani identified as Sakih and an Indonesian identified as Khairudin were allegedly senior players in the human smuggling trade from Indonesia to Australia.

Australian authorities said Sunday they had intercepted a suspected people-smuggling boat — the sixth since September — off the country's west coast.

The 44 passengers and three crew were set to be taken to remote Christmas Island where they would be detained while their immigration status was processed.