Australia, Indonesia to Increase Efforts against People Smuggling

JAKARTA ~ Indonesia and Australia agreed to step up the fight against people smuggling during top-level talks Wednesday after a spate of illegal arrivals in Australia, a report said.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said after talks in Bali they would intensify joint efforts to control the crime, the Antara news agency reported.

“Indonesia and Australia have agreed to step up their bilateral cooperation in the eradication of human trafficking…,” Yudhoyono was quoted as saying after meeting Rudd.

Indonesia’s parliament was finalizing the process to ratify the UN convention on trans-border crime, which would boost its ability to cooperate with Australia against trafficking networks, he said.

The president said he hoped recent trafficking cases involving scores of clandestine migrants trying to enter Australia illegally by boat from Indonesia would not disturb bilateral relations.

Yudhoyono said Indonesia was ready to extradite alleged smuggler Hadi Ahmadi to Australia to face trafficking charges. Ahmadi was arrested in Indonesia in June carrying an Iranian passport.

Human trafficking was a key item on the agenda of discussions between Rudd and Yudhoyono on the sidelines of a regional forum on democracy in Bali.

Six boatloads of clandestine migrants have been intercepted in Australian waters since September.

Jakarta has also said it is investigating media reports that Indonesian diplomats in the Afghan capital Kabul are assisting the traffickers by issuing visas for cash.

The would-be illegal immigrants then fly to Indonesia and meet up with “snakehead” smuggling networks, whom they pay thousands of dollars to smuggle them to Australia, often in unseaworthy boats.

Indonesian police, reportedly acting in cooperation with Australian police, arrested two alleged trafficking kingpins last week.

A Pakistani identified as Sakih and an Indonesian identified as Khairudin were allegedly senior players in the human smuggling trade from Indonesia to Australia.

Rudd said his government welcomed Indonesia’s efforts to control human trafficking and expressed hope the two countries could continue to strengthen their border cooperation, Antara reported.

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