News / Asia

Australia, Indonesia Seek Common Ground on Asylum Seekers

Asylum seekers wait in a police station in Surabaya , East Java province, July 29, 2012.
Asylum seekers wait in a police station in Surabaya , East Java province, July 29, 2012.
Phil Mercer
SYDNEY — Analysts say a deal that could allow Australian forces to enter Indonesian waters to rescue asylum seekers must be carefully monitored to prevent armed conflict. 

The proposal would allow Australian authorities to enter Indonesia's Search and Rescue Zone without permission.

In the past year, hundreds of asylum seekers have drowned off Indonesia’s Java coast en route to Australia by sea, while dozens of boats have issued distress calls.

Jakarta does not have the capacity to respond to each emergency. Within the last week a boatload of asylum seekers ran into trouble near the Indonesian island, Bali, but local authorities were unable to help after darkness had fallen and the Australian navy was left waiting for an official request to respond.

Smuggling gangs

Michael White, a maritime law professor at the University of Queensland, says smuggling gangs believe that, if they call for help, they will be escorted to Australian territory, making their journeys safer and quicker.

"They are developing a technique - I do not blame the refugees, this is the boat crew - of hardly pushing off very far from Indonesia and then calling for assistance and saying they are sinking," he said.

Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa says discussions are underway to establish how and when Australian vessels can enter his country’s territorial waters. Natalegawa says the idea for a maritime agreement between the Asia-Pacific neighbors arose from the Indonesian president's visit to Darwin, last month.

Setting ground rules

White says that the ground rules must be carefully considered to avoid hostilities.

"We certainly would not want a misunderstanding resulting in one of the Indonesian defense forces opening fire on our people. Of course, it should not happen, but it is not impossible. They are armed on both sides," he said.

As discussions continue, more boats carrying asylum seekers attempt to make the perilous crossing from Indonesia to Australia. About 7,000 people have been intercepted by Australian border patrols, so far this year.

Earlier this week, the Australian Navy helped a distressed boat carrying 65 suspected asylum seekers near Sumba Island, off Indonesia.

In Canberra, the government has set up an independent committee to consider the issue of unauthorized migration after it failed to win parliament support for its plan to send hundreds of asylum seekers to Malaysia.

Critics oppose the plan because Malaysia it is not a signatory to the United Nations refugee convention.

Australia grants visas to around 13,000 refugees each year, under various global treaties.

You May Like

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More