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Jakarta Post

RI urges Australia to prioritize regional refugees

  • Anggi M. Lubis

    The Jakarta Post

Nusa Dua   /   Thu, March 24, 2016   /  08:29 am

Indonesia has urged Australia to prioritize resolving the regions'€™ refugee problems rather than taking in those from other parts of the world as Australia launched a strategy to eradicate human trafficking and modern slavery.

Indonesia, which hosts more than 13,000 refugees, has been stressing the need for countries in the region to share the financial and supervisory burden. Jakarta has been urging Canberra to let in more of the refugees who intend to enter the country but are currently stranded in Indonesia.

Refugees have long been a flashpoint between the two countries, with large numbers who are seeking to reach Australia by boat ending up stranded in Indonesia instead.  The flow of would-be refugees arriving in Australia has largely dried up after Canberra introduced in 2013 a tough policy of turning back vessels when it is safe to do so.

Australia insisted that it had done its fair share. '€œAustralia is sharing the burden and will be looking to other countries in our region to do similar,'€ Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said at the start of a three-day visit to Indonesia.

She added that Canberra took a '€œsignificant number'€ under the refugee humanitarian visa and had committed to taking thousands of Syrian refugees.

Foreign Ministry director for multilateral affairs Hasan Kleib said that Indonesia expected destination countries in the region to increase their quotas and prioritize resolving problems in the region.

'€œWe have seen an influx of refugees to Europe in recent years ['€¦]This has led to countries in the region taking in fewer Southeast Asian refugees,'€ Kleib said.

'€œAustralia is taking refugees from Europe. We want them to consider refugees here in Indonesia instead,'€ he added.

Hasan '€” who chaired a senior officials meeting at the Bali Process forum '€” said that Indonesia and the UN High Commission on Refugee (UNHCR) had been seeking to place refugees in Indonesia in destination countries outside Europe, as the continent was facing the worst migrant crisis since World War II.

'€œWe have asked countries outside Europe to increase their intake,'€ he explained.

When asked by journalists about the possibility of accepting more refugees transiting in Indonesia, Bishop replied, '€œAustralia is already playing a significant role, and we urge other countries to do similarly.'€

Bishop said that her country had taken in approximately 2000 refugees from Indonesia over the past three years.

She added that her country was the third-highest country in the world in terms of refugee intake, having set up a humanitarian program to place 13,750 refugees a year and to raise the figure to 18,750 over the next three years. In September last year, the country announced it would resettle 12,000 refugees from Syria, in addition to its existing refugee take-up.

Bishop on Wednesday took an opportunity before commencing the Bali Process international forum to launch a new international strategy to combat human trafficking and slavery.

Citing data on how over 30 million people had become victims of the practice and how modern slavery resulted in US$150 billion in annual profits for involved businesses, Bishop said it was vital to enact a global strategy to combat the transnational crime and to ensure Australian companies were not involved.

'€œWe need to understand that this is a transnational issue. This is why our response is international,'€ she told reporters.

The strategy, she said, would complement a five-year national plan introduced in late 2014.

There are six points in the international strategy, she explained, including efforts on working with countries in the region.

'€œWe will build our cooperation with countries in Southeast Asia in prevention, in detection, in prosecution,'€ she said.

Other points are to work more closely with related multinational institutions, to work within the Bali Process, to work with businesses in ensuring good practices in their labor supply chain, to advocate for victims and to make the Australian ambassador for people smuggling issues a designated ambassador for people smuggling and human trafficking.

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