17 Oct 2009

Australian PM wants asylum-seeker deal - report

12:21 pm on 17 October 2009

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is seeking a new strategic agreement with Jakarta to halt the transit of asylum-seekers through the Indonesian archipelago to Australia, a newspaper report says.

The Weekend Australian says a massively expanded Australian aid package to fund detention centres and training and broader intelligence-sharing between the two nations is at the heart of Mr Rudd's sweeping plan.

The Prime Minister wants a new bilateral dialogue that would make Indonesian co-operation the foundation of Australia's strategy to stop the tide of boats and boat people.

A key aim will be to assist Jakarta with the long-term resettlement of all asylum-seekers currently held in detention centres in Indonesia, the paper says.

Mr Rudd will discuss the terms of the plan with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono when he travels to Jakarta early next week to attend the Indonesian leader's inauguration.

News of the plan comes as the Rudd government seeks to toughen its stance on border security amid fears the rapidly escalating tide of arrivals will soon overwhelm Australia's strained detention facilities.

On Friday, Mr Rudd brushed aside threats of self-harm by the majority of the 255 Sri Lankans aboard the asylum boat intercepted by Jakarta at his request, saying Australia will not be blackmailed into accepting asylum-seekers.

Two of the Tamils were rushed to hospital on Friday after passing out less than 24 hours after the group decided to refuse food and water.

At least five more fainted but were treated on board the wooden cargo boat.

The group has refused to leave the boat since it was intercepted by the Indonesian navy on its way to Australia and taken to Merak, a port city in western Java.