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Australia Seeks Indonesia's Help in Stemming Refugee Flow - 2001-09-06


Three Australian government ministers have met with authorities in Jakarta, to urge that Indonesia clamp down on the flow of Australia-bound illegal immigrants passing through its territory.

After three hours of talks Thursday, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said both sides are committed to working together on smoothing the recent diplomatic feud over a shipload of asylum seekers that neither side wanted. Further talks are set for next week.

Australia refused to accept a shipload of more than 430 immigrants -- mostly Afghans -- who were rescued at sea by a Norwegian freighter August 26th after passing through Indonesia. The crisis was defused when New Zealand and the Pacific island of Nauru agreed to take in the migrants while their applications for political asylum are processed.

In Canberra Thursday, Australian Prime Minister John Howard said his ministers will try to persuade Jakarta to build a detention camp to hold asylum seekers in Indonesia. Indonesian Foreign Minister Hasan Wirayuda said his government will consider building a quarantine center to house illegal migrants, but he offered no details.

Analysts say thousands of illegal migrants slip into Indonesia every year, hoping to travel to Australia. Most of the migrants come from the Middle East or South Asia.

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