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RI Told to Push Australia on Boat People Solution March 9, 2010

Posted by Athiqah Nur Alami in Australia, External Websites, Foreign Policy, Indonesia.
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Lilian Budianto ,  The Jakarta Post ,  Bandung   |  Tue, 02/23/2010 11:36 AM  |  World

Jakarta must use President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s visit to Australia next month to tell Canberra to address the flow of migrants transiting in Indonesia on their way to Australia.

Tri Nuke Pudjiastuti, a researcher with the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), said Jakarta had faced a dilemma over whether to send the boat people away or uphold human rights values while risking turning the country into a dumping ground.

“Australia is aware of the fact that Jakarta will heed human rights values, and uses the argument when seeking Indonesia’s support to detain these boat people on our soil,” she said on the sidelines of a seminar on regional diplomacy, co-hosted by the institute and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in Bandung.

Thousands of migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and elsewhere have been intercepted and held in Indonesia on their way to Australia.

Indonesia currently hosts around 1,300 Afghan migrants alone, while hundreds of ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar are sheltered in Aceh.

“Australia tends to view the problem as a domestic Indonesian issue, saying they look forward to what they call ‘an Indonesian solution’,” Nuke said. “The government has to make clear that Australia should also take responsibility.”

Yudhoyono will visit Australia from March 8 to 11, followed by a trip to Papua New Guinea from March 11 to 12.

Nuke said migrant issues could potentially strain bilateral ties as both Jakarta and Canberra have come under domestic pressure to handle the flow of migrants.

“Bilateral ties between Australia and Indonesia will continue to be defined by successful cooperation in handling this problem,” she said.

In 2006, Indonesia and Australia signed the Lombok Treaty, a security cooperation with a highlight on the movement of migrants. But the treaty has not been much invoked in dealing with the current situation.

Human Rights Working Group deputy executive director Choirul Anam said Indonesia should not act as a buffer for Australia by hosting migrants bound for that country.

“Some shelters in Indonesia are established by the government with the support of Australia,” he said.

“Why would the government do that? What kind of arrangement have they really made? How does Indonesia benefit through this arrangement?”

He urged the government to send the would-be migrants to Australia and to stop hosting any more.

LIPI researcher Athiqah Nur Alami said Jakarta had been weak when negotiating with Australia over shared concerns, particularly the issue of boat people.

“We share so many issues with them, but the progress has not been very clear,” she said.

“On the boat people issue, Australia has not yet put strong emphasis on how to involve the countries of origin or the transiting and destination countries in resolving the issue. They’ve left it mostly to Jakarta to decide, which is very unfortunate.”

Bandung-based Parahyangan University professor Colin Brown, who previously taught Asian studies at Flinders University in South Australia, said the boat people issue was a key one in bilateral ties, but its potential to sour relations was small.

“There are always differences between Indonesia and Australia,” he said. “But we have common concerns with non-traditional security issues and that should actually strengthen our relationship.”

He added Australia was actively engaged in maintaining regional stability in an effort to help stop the flow of migrants to the country.

“Australia is very concerned about regional stability,  because its absence would cause migrants flows to Australia,” he said.

“And relations with Indonesia are partly built on that concern.”

Copyright © 2008 The Jakarta Post – PT Bina Media Tenggara. All Rights Reserved.

Source URL: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2010/02/23/ri-told-push-australia-boat-people-solution.html

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