News / Asia

Asylum Seekers Atop Agenda During Abbott Trip to Indonesia

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott (L) walks beside Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, September 30, 2013.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott (L) walks beside Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, September 30, 2013.
VOA News
New Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has arrived in Indonesia Monday on a visit that will likely be dominated by his tough policy on asylum seekers.

Abbott began his visit in Jakarta by laying a wreath at a national cemetery honoring Indonesia's war heroes, hours before his scheduled meeting with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.  The meeting between the two leaders comes several days after at least 36 asylum seekers were killed when their boat sank in Indonesian waters.

The new Australian leader won national elections earlier this month on a pledge to "stop the boats" and end the constant stream of asylum seekers sailing from Indonesia to Australia.

Under the new policy, the Australian navy has been ordered to prevent the boats from reaching shore and turn them back around whenever possible.  The policy has upset Jakarta, who has said that it violates Indonesia's sovereignty.

Australia's government has been under domestic pressure to stop the influx of asylum seekers from countries such as Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Hundreds of people have drowned in recent years trying to make the dangerous journey to Australian territory.

Abbott is also hoping to use his first foreign trip as Australian Prime Minister to bolster trade relations between the two Asia-Pacific leaders. He will be accompanied by more than a dozen Australian business leaders on his trip.

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