Indonesia may offer island for refugees to Australia

JAKARTA • Indonesia is considering offering a small island to process refugees captured en route to Australia, its security ministry said yesterday, in what would make it the third country this year to offer help with Australia's tough immigration policy.

The government had "formed small teams to discuss this matter", a spokesman for Indonesia's Coordinating Ministry for Political, Legal and Security Affairs told Reuters, referring to a media report quoting security chief Luhut Pandjaitan.

"We can discuss the possibility of allocating an island. But Australia is required to finance it entirely," Mr Luhut was quoted as saying in The Jakarta Post. The matter will be finalised when the Indonesian and Australian leaders meet on Dec 22, the spokesman said, adding that the meeting would also cover terrorism and trade, among other issues.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull met his counterpart President Joko Widodo for the first time last week, hoping to heal ties that were strained by his predecessor Tony Abbott, who had angered Jakarta with his policy of towing back to Indonesia vessels carrying asylum seekers, among other issues.

The Australian policy, while popular at home, infuriated Jakarta. Indonesia welcomed migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh earlier this year, and urged the international community to share the burden of resettling them. Australia has also received criticism from the United Nations and rights groups for its hardline policy of intercepting asylum seekers who come by boat.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2015, with the headline 'Indonesia may offer island for refugees to Australia'. Print Edition | Subscribe