Indonesia, Australia in deal to rescue asylum-seekers stranded at sea
JAKARTA (AFP) - Indonesia and Australia on Tuesday signed an agreement allowing Australian planes to enter Indonesian airspace to help rescue asylum-seekers stranded at sea.
Hundreds of people have died this year attempting dangerous boat journeys from Indonesia to Australia, with ill-equipped Indonesian rescue authorities blamed for being too slow in assisting asylum-seekers stuck in rough seas.
Australia has repeatedly been forced to lead rescue missions off the Indonesian coast but its efforts have been hampered by the necessary clearance required for Australian search and rescue aircraft to enter the archipelago.
Indonesian transport ministry spokesman Bambang Ervan said Indonesia "will expedite the entry permit process of Australian airplanes" after the transport ministers of both nations signed a Memorandum of Understanding in Jakarta.