Hawthorn, Victoria Australia (PressExposure) January 12, 2012 -- January 12, 2012 - As Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd met his Indonesian counterpart, Marty Natalegawa, in Jakarta recently, Mr. Rudd was assured that Indonesia's relaxation of visa rules for citizens from countries that are a source of boat people coming to Australia will not provide these people smugglers carte blanche to smuggle more people to Australia.
One might recall that just last month, the Indonesian government had made an announcement that it was easing restrictions on Sri Lankans and Bangladeshis attempting to travel to the country. Moreover, the Indonesian also signaled similar moves for Afghanistan and Pakistan nationals.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Natalegawa stated that Australia was "quite interested" in the recent visa changes partly because Indonesia was the transit country for asylum seekers taking boats to Australia.
Along with the Iranians, the recent visa changes affected the citizens of the four countries who made up the vast majority of boat people. Mr. Natalegawa further stated that he had informed minister Rudd about what the policy is and explained that the recent visa changes is not visa-on-arrival or visa-free facilitation.
Mr. Natalegawa further added that Australia and Indonesia would still share information on potential travelers from these countries so both countries can quickly detect any Australian visa application that is not in good standing.
On the other hand, Mr. Rudd welcomed the clarification from his Indonesian counterpart. This came amidst a rise in boat people after the Australian government failed to implement offshore processing, including its proposed refugee swap deal with Malaysia.
Mr. Rudd also stated that he is hoping that the easing of visa restrictions might be reversed as Mr. Natalegawa had made an assurance that the arrangements will still be the subject of normal review within the Indonesian system.
Both foreign ministers had discussed the problem of Indonesian minors arrested for crewing people-smuggling vessels and ending up in Australian prisons.
According to Mr. Natalegawa, the processing of the juveniles is being sped up and there will be more youths who will be returned to Indonesia.
Mr. Natalegawa explained that these young Indonesians were just being "tricked" into taking the crewing jobs and the Indonesian government would be stepping up an information campaign in order to dissuade them from being seduced by people smugglers.
Moreover, Mr. Natalegawa stated that when asked if he wanted Australia's political parties to come to a compromise to reintroduce offshore processing, he said that he "just wanted a solution".
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