Australia urges Indonesia to build asylum camp
Updated on 9/8/2001 10:52:09 AM
CANBERRA (Agencies): Australia will urge Jakarta to let it build a detention centre for asylum seekers in Indonesia in a bid to clamp down on the illegal movement of people between the two countries, Prime Minister John Howard said.The proposal follows Australia's refusal to accept 433 mostly Afghan asylum seekers on board the Norwegian freighter Tampa after they arrived off its remote Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean on August 26.
An Australian navy ship is now sailing the unwanted boat people to Papua New Guinea from where they will be flown to New Zealand and Nauru to have their refugee claims assessed.
Howard said Australia was willing to fund the construction of a camp where illegal immigrants, using Indonesia as a stepping stone to Australia, could be held while their applicants for refugee status were assessed.
"People arriving illegally in Indonesia, rather than being allowed to go on to Australia, would be held there and processed there," Howard told Australian radio.
"If people knew in advance they weren't going to be readily allowed out of Indonesia or would be returned then they wouldn't go there in the first place," he said.
Howard said this was just one measure to be discussed as Australia tries to build a wall of deterrents to stop the illegal trafficking of humans into Australia.
It will also ask Indonesia to extradite people smugglers to Australia to face court.
The number of asylum seekers arriving in Australia illegally has risen to about 5,000 a year in recent years - a small number by international comparisons but a jump from 600 a decade ago.
Howard said the camp proposal had been raised previously but Indonesia, heavily involved in its own domestic problems, had yet to agree.
"We would be providing the resources because we recognise that Indonesia is a poor country...it is in our interest and it's only fair we do so," he said.
Three senior Australian ministers - Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, Defence Minister Peter Reith and Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock - have gone to Jakarta to step up pressure for joint cooperation to block illegal immigrants.
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