21 Apr 2009

'Thousands' of asylum seekers heading for Australia: govt minister

8:37 am on 21 April 2009

An Australian cabinet minister says there are thousands of asylum seekers in Indonesia who may try to travel to Australia.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd earlier said the country faces the emerging threat of a huge number of asylum seekers trying to get to Australia by boats from Indonesia and other countries.

Federal Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus has told the ABC that aid agencies and officials in Indonesia have reported a sharp increase in the number of asylum seekers who might try to travel to Australia.

He said it was difficult to predict precisely how many more people might try to travel to Australia.

But he said there were thousands of people in Indonesia and the region, who are interested in trying to seek asylum.

Mr Debus again refused to give details on the events surrounding a fatal explosion on an asylum-seeker boat last week off the coast of Western Australia.

Federal Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull has accused the Government of withholding information about the cause of the explosion from the public.