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Indonesia Refuses Australia's Request for New Migrant Detention Center - 2001-09-07


Indonesia has rejected an Australian request to build a new detention center for illegal migrants caught on their way to Australia.

The request came from a delegation of three Australian ministers in Jakarta for talks on reducing the flow of asylum-seekers who pass through Indonesia. Australia offered to pay for the detention center's construction, but Indonesia still said no.

Instead, Jakarta said (Friday) it would accept financial help to expand its existing detention centers. Most of those centers are said to be rundown and poorly supervised. Indonesia also promised to strengthen laws against those who traffic in illegal migrants.

The Australian delegation had hoped to meet with Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri, but she said she was too busy. Ms. Megawati also has failed to return telephone calls from Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

Their two countries have been at odds since a Norwegian freighter in the Indian Ocean rescued 430 asylum-seekers from a sinking Indonesian ferry last week. Australia refused to let them in.

But it did agree to take them to Papua New Guinea, where they are to be be flown to New Zealand and the tiny island nation of Nauru for processing their asylum requests.

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