Australia to share asylum seeker burden with Indonesia

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June 6, 2014 – So far this year, no asylum seekers have arrived by boat in Australian borders, showing the Coalition’s effective Operation Sovereign Borders policy. But this strict policy has caused overcrowding in offshore detention centres, particularly in Indonesia, whose director general for multilateral affairs Hasan Kleib raised a concern to the Australian government regarding “shared responsibility.”

Australia and Indonesia share responsibility in managing boat arrivals

According to Kleib, Australia’s “zero entry” policy is affecting other issues related to Indonesia. Since the Abbott administration took office, all boats entering Australia’s borders are pushed back to Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Nauru for processing of refugee status and eventual resettlement.

Now that Indonesia’s detention centres are overcrowded with at least 10,623 asylum-seekers (from only below 400 in 2009), Kleib has discussed the issue with Australia in the sidelines of the two-day people smuggling and human trafficking workshop held in Jakarta in April 21-22.

“So we want to share the burden. . . . It’s what I’ve said since the beginning, people smuggling is under the category of transnational crime. If it is transnational, then there is no one country in the world that can handle it alone,” said Kleib.

Sharing the same viewpoint on the issue is Manuel Jordao, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees representative in Indonesia. Jordao pointed out that “a certain degree of . . . responsibility-sharing should be negotiated if states want to actively put in place a system that should effectively manage migration in the region.”

The casual discussion resulted in a regional cooperation arrangement to take effect over the next three years. Under the pact, Australia has agreed to spend AU$86.8 million to help Indonesia manage its asylum-seeker population.

Australia will also spend another AU$3.7 million in the coming year to fund “international engagement activities to prevent and disrupt maritime people-smuggling,” which will be enforced by a new Australian Border Force, a merging of the Customs and Immigration Department operations.

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