Persecuted by what? By whom?
AUSTRALIA’S hard-line strategy against people smuggling has reduced asylum-seeker registrations in Indonesia by more than 80 per cent this year.
PETER ALFORD /THE AUSTRALIAN
Between late December and the end of last month, the number of asylum-seekers registering had fallen from 100 people daily to about 100 people weekly, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Indonesia representative, Manuel Jordao, said today.
“So there is a sharp decline in the number of people seeking for registration at UNHCR,” he said, responding to a question about the effect in Indonesia of Australia’s boat turn-back policy.
Another key indicator of asylum-seekers’ diminished capability to board boats to Australia was the “no-show rate” at the Jakarta office falling from 50 per cent a year ago to 2 per cent now.
This was the rate of people reporting for registration but failing to return to UNHCR â€” authorities assuming most no-shows had boarded boats.
However, Mr Jordao added, it would take more months to judge the Australian clampdown’s effect on numbers of asylum-seekers entering Indonesia and numbers stranded in Indonesia.
He and a senior Indonesian Foreign Ministry official, Hassan Kleib, today briefed reporters on an international workshop next week in Jakarta on protection of asylum-seekers at sea.
More than 300,000 asylum seekers are registered with UNHCR in Southeast Asia, many moving by sea from Myanmar and Bangladesh to Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.
About 700 people died in the water last year.
Australia will be among the 14 countries joining next week’s meeting and is expected to be represented by officers from the Jakarta embassy.
Mr Kleib, the Foreign Ministry’s director general of multilateral affairs, said today he was unaware of the basis of a report that Indonesia’s military, General Moeldoko, said Australian counterparts had assured him asylum-seeker boats were no longer being turned back to Indonesia.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has denied this assertion.
Mr Kleib said he would “maybe ask for clarification” from the Australian delegates next week whether there had been any change in their government’s policy.
He repeated Indonesia’s criticism of Australia turning back boats, or on at least three occasions transferring asylum-seekers to orange lifeboats to return to Indonesia.
“In general terms this solution is … going nowhere because it is just pending a solution, it’s not a comprehensive solution,” Mr Kleib said.