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Jakarta's decision to make it harder for Iranians to enter Indonesia
A fortnight ago, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was in Indonesia to meet President Yudhoyono and as it turns out, secure agreement from him to make it harder for Iranians to enter Indonesia. Iranians make up a rapidly rising proportion of the asylum seekers trying to get to Australia.

Jim Middleton speaks with Indonesia correspondent Helen Brown.
Transcript
JIM MIDDLETON, PRESENTER: The PNG bombshell was not the only result of Kevin Rudd's recent flurry of shuttle diplomacy.

A fortnight ago the Australian PM was in Indonesia to meet President Yudhoyono and as it turns out, secure agreement from him to make it harder for Iranians to enter Indonesia. Iranians make up a rapidly rising proportion of the asylum seekers trying to get to Australia.

Indonesia correspondent Helen Brown broke that news and is in Jakarta.

Helen, first up the PNG announcement, now we do know that Jakarta got no advance notice of what Kevin Rudd was proposing but has there been any reaction either public or private?

HELEN BROWN, REPORTER: It's been very quiet, actually. When contacting the Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa his office simply relayed back that he would not be making a comment. We do understand that the information was relayed to the presidential office from a notice from the Australian embassy and that was after the announcement was made.

As you will recall, only two weeks ago the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was in Jakarta and he met the President, they had several meetings and one of the outcomes of those meetings was a decision to hold a joint forum, something that the President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was pushing for which will bring together all the countries. The source countries, the transit countries and the countries that the asylum seekers were trying to get to with the aim of trying to find some solutions to a very complex issue

And the tone of that was that it was important for the region to work together and work with each other on finding ways to deal with this. So that was only two weeks ago and now we have this announcement from Australia where it seems that the President's office hasn't been informed beforehand.

JIM MIDDLETON: I wonder whether I could get your assessment of this. Do you think that had Jakarta known about the PNG decision, would it have any impact on Jakarta's move to make it harder for Iranians to enter Indonesia?

HELEN BROWN: That scenario could certainly be the case and when you have 10,000 people registered here as asylum seekers and those seeking refuge through the UNHCR, that's a number that is certainly now being felt in Indonesia.

Of around 8,200 people registered with the UNHCR we're told that 12 per cent are from Iran. Whether or not this would have made the President make a different decision is hard to say. As I said, we're just getting no reaction whatsoever. However, we do know that when this decision was made to make changes to the visa system for Iranians, it was considered important. It's been considered by the Justice Minister here - Amir Syamsuddin - as a big deal.

JIM MIDDLETON: And is there any sign in what seems to be a pretty information poor environment that the visa decision was taken by the Yudhoyono administration for reasons other than simply the fact that Australia had made the request? That Indonesia does now recognise that the rising number of asylum seekers in their country could create domestic problems rather than Australia simply seeking to outsource its own domestic political headache?

HELEN BROWN: Well there could be an element of that in it, certainly. You have now large groups of Iranians coming in and living in certain parts of the country, including say an hour or two out of Jakarta. And that's causing concern in local areas. There have been reports of Iranians gathering of perhaps drinking, of having cultural practices that are different.

When the decision was made to change the visa arrangements for Iranians we were told by a senior official that there was an upward trend of Iranians coming in on the visa on arrival system and that was causing concern. There were many cases and they felt the system was being abused.

JIM MIDDLETON: Indonesia correspondent Helen Brown in Jakarta.
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