Thursday, March 30, 2006

Indonesia: "Let it Rip!" over 'illegal migrants'

Let the Diplomatic Row with Indonesia Rip, especially over Indonesia's threat to stop cooperating with Australia over what one Indonesian spokesman last week termed 'illegal migrants'," says WA Rights group Project SafeCom this morning.

"We would welcome one almighty row between Indonesia and Australia over the repelled asylum seekers, who in accordance with international law sought to enter Australia. Four years ago more than four hundred men, women and many children ended up in camps run by the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) at Mataram on Lombok, when they were pushed back by the Australian Navy or by Indonesian operatives working under cover on behalf of Australia."

"Maybe Indonesia should stop cooperating with Australia by stopping the practice of 'warehousing' asylum seekers for Australia and now deliver the remaining about seventy men, women and children on Australia's doorstop or fly them to Australia and then present the Bill to our country," Mr Smit said.

"Project SafeCom would encourage an immediate end to the practice of Indonesian warehousing of asylum seekers on Australia's behest, we would want to see an end to the recruiting and payment in cash or bribes of Indonesian operatives, whether they are part of the Indonesian Army or Police force, or Indonesian Immigration officials who identify and disrupt groups of asylum seekers, or boats with alleged people smugglers intending to reach Australian shores."

"Nearly five years after the infamous 2001 Federal election, won by the Howard government over disruption of boats with asylum seekers, both through activities of the maritime Repel and Deny taskforce "Operation Relex", and the use of shady operatives recruited by Indonesia on behalf of Australia, the untold misery of the hundreds of asylum seekers "pushed back" by Australia continues on Indonesian Islands," said spokesman Jack H Smit.

"The absolute majority of the several hundred asylum claimants, clearly identified as Australia's responsibility both through the Australian monies provided by the Howard government to IOM, and by Australian UNHCR representatives, have been assessed as refugees - if only because many of them were spouses and children of refugees already living in Australia - while 67 remain at the Lombok camp."

This story has many more chapters to be written. Murky bilateral deals to shore up Howard's "illegal boat people" wedge need to be exposed for the low politics they are.

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