THE asylum seeker policy deadlock in Canberra has become a major source of frustration in Indonesia with a senior politician saying Australia must have a “strict and clear” deterrent against people smuggling.
With asylum seekers arriving by boat in Australia in record numbers, Indonesia’s resources are also being stretched as police and immigration authorities deal with an increase in refugees transiting through the archipelago.
More than 7000 asylum seekers have arrived in Australia this year. Another 6000 registered refugees are waiting in Indonesia.
The chair of the Indonesian parliamentary committee that oversees foreign affairs, Mahfudz Siddiq, says the apparent lack of a working policy in Australia is sending a message that its borders are open.
“Indonesia is being dragged into the problem, significantly impacted, and it’s quite worrying,” Mr Siddiq told AAP.
“These illegal immigrants trying to get into Australia, and even risking their lives, are doing so in the hope that Australia would accept them since Australia is open for them.”
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The comments come in the wake of the Australian parliament’s failure six weeks ago to agree on a policy to counter the flow of asylum seeker boats.
“If Australia seriously wants to deal with it, Australia must have a strict and clear policy that explains whether they’re still open or not,” Mr Siddiq said.
“There’s legal problem in Australia that there’s still no strong signal from Australia’s legal system that gives deterrent effect for people smuggling.”
Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said the comments highlighted the burden Labour’s policy failures were placing on Indonesia.
“With arrivals at new record levels of more than 1000 per month, this is not just draining our resources, but Indonesia’s as well,” Mr Morrison said on Wednesday.
Mr Morrison said Australia’s asylum seeker policy must resolutely focus on deterring illegal entry.
“Labour blames the parliament for their deadlock, but it is of their own fabrication.”
A report prepared by a group of eminent Australians led by former defence chief Angus Houston, and aimed at breaking the deadlock in parliament, is expected to be handed down within days.
It is understood to favour a tough policy approach such as the Malaysia plan, which was designed to act as a deterrent by ensuring that asylum seekers intercepted in Australian waters would not be immediately resettled in Australia.
But the policy impasse appears set to continue regardless of the findings of the report, with the coalition remaining steadfastly opposed to the so-called Malaysia solution.
The coalition argues that the Malaysia plan will not work and wants to restore temporary protection visas and processing of asylum seekers on Nauru.
It also stands by its plan of turning asylum seeker boats back to Indonesia – a policy that has already been soundly rejected by Jakarta.