Indonesia to Work With Australia on Asylum Seekers, Bishop Says

Indonesia accepts more action is necessary to halt the flow of asylum-seeker boats, Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said following talks on the issue between the leaders of the two nations.

“We have set the relationship in the right course to resolving the people smuggling issue,” Bishop told Television New Zealand’s Q+A yesterday, according to a transcript. Indonesia realizes “more needs to be done bilaterally between Australia and Indonesia, and that’s what will happen,” she said.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is seeking to deliver on his pledge to “stop the boats,” made before a Sept. 7 election in which his Liberal-National coalition returned to government for the first time since 2007. His vow to return boats to Indonesian waters was criticized in Jakarta, and talks with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono produced few specifics on addressing a practice that’s led to the deaths of at least 800 people trying to enter Australia since October 2009.

“Australia and Indonesia want to stop the deaths at sea that are occurring in the waters between our two countries,” Bishop said. “I’m confident that we will be able to achieve that in close cooperation.”

Abbott and his Indonesian counterpart held a “very frank discussion on the issue of sovereignty,” the Australian leader said Sept. 30 as he visited Jakarta on his first overseas trip as prime minister.

At least 334 asylum seekers have been transferred to offshore processing centers since Australia’s government asked the military to lead work to deter boat arrivals, Air Marshal Mark Binskin, vice chief of the Defence Force, said Oct. 4. One asylum boat arrived in Australia last week, Binskin said.

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