Indonesia has stopped 2000 boatpeople from reaching Australia
Online Political Editor
October 15, 2009
INDONESIAN authorities have stopped more than 2000 asylum-seekers from reaching Australia's shores in the past two years.
Immigration Minister Chris Evans confirmed the figure today as it emerged 260 asylum-seekers detained at the weekend could be sent to an Australian-funded detention centre in Sumatra.
Demountable buildings originally earmarked for Aboriginal families will also be transported from Alice Springs to Christmas Island to take the centre's capacity beyond its current limit of 1400 people.
Playing down the dramatic intervention of the Indonesian Navy at the weekend to stop the largest single boatload of asylum-seekers attempting to reach Australia since the Rudd government was elected, Senator Evans said there had been 81 such incidents in the past.
Well certainly it would be in the order of a couple of thousand, given the size generally of boat departures, he told ABC TV.
But some of them may involve the same people seeking to get on a boat … we've got lots of people in South East Asia trying to make passage to Western democracies. Some are going to western Europe, some are going to Canada, some coming to Australia. They take whatever opportunity there is to get to a place where they will feel safe and we're one of the targets.
Senator Evans refused to be drawn on former immigration minister Philip Ruddock's prediction that 10,000 asylum-seekers could be on their way.
Philip Ruddock made a couple of explanations for where he got that figure from. One was that it was intelligence from 2007, and one was that that's what had been the case when he was minister, he said.
So he seems to be saying that there's always 10,000 people waiting to come. But, look, you can't quantify that. What we know is that there are large numbers of people who are fleeing Afghanistan, fleeing Sri Lanka, fleeing Iraq and other places who are seeking to get to a safe haven.
It has also emerged that two of the architects of the Howard government's hardline immigration policies – Mr Ruddock and another former immigration minister Kevin Andrews – are now shaping the Coalition's election policy.
The news comes amid speculation some Liberals would like to see the current opposition spokeswoman Sharman Stone moved on from the increasingly high profile portfolio claiming she has failed to apply enough pressure to the Rudd government.
Ms Stone has said the Coalition will consider the reintroduction of temporary protection visas if re-elected.
Mr Andrews said today that such a visa, which might be known as an unlawful entry visa, would allow the government to deport refugees years after they had settled in Australia if the situation in their homeland was no longer dangerous.
VIDEO: Jakarta key to border security help – PM
Australia will continue to work with Indonesia in dealing with the scourge of people smugglers.