Plan To Offer Indonesia Asylum Seeker Bounties

Plan to offer Indonesia asylum seeker bounties

Posted Thu Oct 22, 2009 1:34am AEDT
Updated Thu Oct 22, 2009 1:49am AEDT

The Federal Government is considering a plan to pay Indonesia for the cost of intercepting boats of asylum seekers on their way to Australia.

The plan, which has already been dubbed “the Indonesian Solution”, comes in response to a growing number of people smugglers attempting to transport asylum seekers to Australia.

A boatload of asylum seekers was intercepted near Ashmore Island on Wednesday afternoon, while the 78 asylum seekers on board an Australian Customs ship are expected to arrive in Indonesia this afternoon.

The boat intercepted by HMAS Albany off Ashmore Island yesterday is believed to be carrying 22 asylum seekers and two crew.

Indonesia last week stopped a boat carrying more than 250 Sri Lankans and last night agreed to accept the 78 people rescued by an Australian customs ship.

Kevin Rudd has confirmed he is seeking further cooperation with Indonesia on dealing with asylum seekers.

Greater cooperation between the two countries could include bounties for each asylum seeker dealt with in Indonesia.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans told the ABC's 7:30 Report that Australia and Indonesia are working together on a solution to people smuggling, but he would not confirm the plan.

“The discussion I think will largely focus on capacity to assist in the fight against people smuggling but those negotiations will occur between officials in coming days and it would be too early to comment on the specific,” he said.

'An easy line'

Senator Evans says he will not comment on the plan but says it should not be called the “Indonesian Solution”.

“That's a very easy line and I think people ought to think about it a bit more deeply,” he said.

“The Pacific solution was about punishing refugees. This is about an arrangement, a regional framework with many measures already in place that allow for refugees to be safe in Indonesia, apply for protection.”

However, the Federal Opposition has accused the Government of trying to buy its way out of stopping people smuggling.

Opposition Immigration spokeswoman Sharman Stone told ABC's Lateline that paying Indonesia is not the solution.

“Kevin Rudd has nothing to do to solve this problem it seems other than to ask Indonesia, 'please will you now intercept people who we've lured on down with our softened policy',” she said.

“Now that can't work, it isn't working and certainly Indonesia is not going to be interested unless they're paid quite an extraordinary amount.

“What is this Government going to do about the crisis?”

Meanwhile, Senator Evans says the 78 asylum seekers on board the Australian customs boat Oceanic Viking are being taken to Indonesia because of concern for a sick child.

The Oceanic Viking is expected to dock in a Western Java port this afternoon after Indonesia agreed to house the asylum seekers while they are being processed by international agencies.

Senator Evans says the deal was struck based on the welfare of a sick child.

“The child is receiving attention on the ship and so that treatment is occurring, but yes the agreement was based on concern for the child, a humanitarian agreement if you like, to disembark the passengers in Indonesia,” he said.



Video: Indonesia wants long-term asylum seeker solution (Lateline)
Video: Sharman Stone discusses the asylum seeker debate (Lateline)
Video: Chris Evans joins The 7.30 Report (7.30 Report)
Audio: Indon deal short-term fix: Opposition (The World Today)
Related Story: New asylum boat intercepted
Related Story: Asylum deal upsets Indonesian officials
Related Story: Asylum seekers deal temporary: Indonesia