Saturday, May 9, 2009

Indonesians upset over Aussie refugee stance

It was the land of the Aborigines who are believed to have migrated from some unknown point in Asia to Australia 50,000 to 60,000 years ago.
Later some European explorers and traders including from the
Netherlands charted the coastline of Australia which they named
New Holland beginning in the 1600s, until eventually Captain
James Cook of Britain claimed the continent for the British
Crown in 1770.
After declaring the `new world` a British penal colony, the
first fleet of 11 British ships carrying about 1500 people -
half of them convicts - arrived at what is now Sydney Harbour on
January 16, 1788.
The relocation of convicts from Britain ended in 1868 after
around 160,000 convicted men and women were brought to
Australia. Until 1973, the former British colony pursued a
"White Australia" policy, restricting the nationality of
immigration to Europeans only. After opening itself to
non-Europeans, Australia received mainly Chinese and Indian
As of July 2007, Australia`s population was roughly 21.0 million
people who originally came from over 200 countries. Australia is
a country with the sixth widest territory in the world
(7,682,300 sq km) while some of its regions are sparsely
Until now, Australia is still attracting refugees who had hoped
to have a better life in the `new world`, especially from
war-torn countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Srilanka, Pakistan
and Iran.
As it is very difficult to apply for asylum through proper
channels in Australia, many of those emigrants looked for an
`alternative way` to enter Australia and this was why many of
them were found to have tried to achieve their goal via
Indonesia which shares a maritime border with Australia.
In the May-December 2008 period, the number of such emigrants
who used Indonesia as a transit point to travel to Australia
illegally ran into the hundreds. But their number swelled to 600
in the first three months of this year.
"This is a drastic increase. Most of them were Afghans. It is
likely that the security conditions in Afghanistan or the global
financial crisis has forced them to become illegal emigrants,"
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said at his Cikeas residence
in Bogor last April after speaking by phone with Australian
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Yudhoyono said he had discussed the matter with Australian Prime
Minister Kevin Rudd on the phone. Indonesia and Australia had a
commitment to step up their cooperation to address the issue of
illegal emigrants whose number had continued to increase since
early this year, he said.
Meanwhile, Australian news agency AAP reported that Indonesia`s
and Australis`s leaders had agreed in phone conversations to
work together closely to stem the flow of boat people into
Australian waters.
Because of the the two countries` close cooperation, those
emigrants, including children and women, mostly ended up in
Indonesian jails causing some of the jails to become overcrowded.
Recently, 91 illegal immigrants from Afghanistan were put in an
immigration detention center in Pekanbaru, while according to
Yanizur of the Pekanbaru immigration office, the detention house
he oversaw only had a capacity to accommodate 68 people.
"That`s why the detention of 34 other illegal emigrants from
Afghanistan and Pakistan who were netted in the latest in a
series of arrests were transferred to the detention center in
Tanjungpinang, Riau Islands," he said.
Due to the limited space at the Pekanbaru immigratio detention
center, Yanizur said, his subordinates had to hold two married
couples with children under five years at the document and
inventory room of the detention center.
"They have been separated from other detainees because the two
wives were pregnant so they need a larger space," he added.
Those put behind bars might still be luckier than their friends
who lost their lives ate sea on their way to the `land of hope`.
Last April , AAP reported that a boat carrying asylum seekers
believed to be from Afghanistan exploded, killing at least five
people and wounding dozens more. It was the sixth boat of asylum
seekers intercepted by Australian authorities waters this year.
Even when they managed to land on Australian shores, some of
them might end up in a `hell` as they might be escorted by
Australian authorities to Christmas Island which has a
prison-like detention center built during the era of Australian
prime minister John Howard.
Seven boats, carrying 306 asylum seekers, have been
`intercepted` this year. The Rudd government promptly put the
blame on people smugglers for the apparent `surge` in asylum
seekers, Jay Fletcher wrote in his article "Refugees: Let them
land! Let them stay! on Green Left online.
Australian Ambassador to Indonesia Bill Farmer said the jailing
of the third Indonesian skipper involved in recent people
smuggling activity should send a strong message that Australia
would not tolerate such crimes.
"People smuggling is a dangerous crime that exploits vulnerable
people during times of desperation and demonstrates a callous
disregard for the law," Ambassador Farmer said.
Indonesia-Australian partnership
Indonesia is Australia `s largest development assistance
partner, according to a press statement of the Australian
embassy in Jakarta early May 2009.
The Australian government has given a soft loan and a grant of
AS$328 million for the construction of 500 kms of roads through
the Eastern Indonesia National Roads Improvement Program
The Australian government had donated around A$387 million for
the construction of 2,000 elementary schools across Indonesia.
The two states co-chaired the Third Bali Regional Ministerial
Conference on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and
Related Transnational Crimes, in Bali last April.
Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith when speaking
in Bali said "We welcome very much the fact that we have very
close cooperation with Indonesia, not just in terms of
information sharing or best practice, but also importantly in
the constructive activities that we engage in. As has the
contribution to assisting countries in our region to criminalize
people smuggling and human trafficking through developing model
Australia had `pushed` Indonesia to enact a law which would
criminalize people `smugglers`.
Australian Minister for Home Affairs Bob Debus officially opened
a new computer based training (CBT) center in Bali as part of
cooperative efforts between the Australian Federal Police, the
Indonesian National Police and the United Nations Office for
Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The center would increase the capacity of the Indonesian
National Police to manage the training of Indonesian police
officers in combating a range of transnational crime types,
including the `smuggling` of foreign emigrants to Australia.
Indonesian and Australian forces have been successfully
intercepting boats at sea, turning emigrants back to Indonesia,
and arresting asylum seekers before they attempt the journey to
What a drastic contrast with the helplessness of the Aboriginal
people almost three centuries when they saw the flow of European
immigrants into their land which is now called Australia.
Jakarta, May 9 (Antara News)

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