6 Jul 2013

Regional talks to be held on people-smuggling

5:07 am on 6 July 2013

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia has offered to hold a regional meeting on people-smuggling.

A communique issued after a meeting with Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd said the talks should involve countries of origin, transit and destination.

In recent months the number of asylum seekers arriving by boat in Australia via Indonesia has increased sharply.

Last year, the Australian government reintroduced a policy under which people arriving by boat are sent to camps in Nauru and Papua New Guinea for processing.

It said the move was needed to prevent people making the dangerous journey to Australia on overcrowded and rickety boats, several of which have sunk in recent years.

But the BBC reports the policy has so far failed to deter new arrivals.

It is expected to be one of the key issues in Australia's general election, due later this year.

The meeting between Mr Yudhoyono and Mr Rudd took place in Bogor, near Jakarta on Friday.

The communique issued after the meeting stressed "the importance of avoiding unilateral actions which might jeopardise such a comprehensive regional approach and might cause operational and other difficulties to any party".

Everybody must take responsibility and must take concrete action," AFP quoted Mr Yudhoyono as saying. "It is unfair if only Indonesia and Australia are burdened with this."

The communique gave no date for the talks.

Mr Rudd welcomed the move.

"This problem of people smuggling is a problem for our entire region, therefore the president's initiative is for all of us to work together," the Australian Broadcasting Corporation quoted him as saying.