Indonesian refugees say Albanese’s visa change won’t drive them onto boats

The Hazaras, who are being persecuted in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan and unable to return, comprise more than half of 14,000 refugees in Indonesia, many of whom have been stranded there for years, without work permits and with restricted rights.


Rather than track down traffickers and try to make the perilous journey south, Ahmadi said refugees in Indonesia wanted Australia to increase its refugee quota and abandon its refusal to accept asylum seekers who arrived in Indonesia after July 1, 2014.

“The Australian government is also responsible for the situation of refugees in Indonesia,” he said.

“We hope that the third countries that have signed the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol [for refugees] Take your responsibilities and look out for the refugees.”

The inclusion of refugees in Indonesia in a newly unveiled visa lottery program for foreign workers would also be welcome and could “save some refugees [an] unknown future,” he said.

The majority of the 19,000 refugees who are eligible for permanent residence are from Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

Since the announcement, the coalition has accused Labor of dismantling a key pillar of Operation Sovereign Borders.

“Even if you try to package this in a way that only a certain group of people are now given the right or opportunity to seek permanent residency here in Australia, you still send a very clear message that the people smugglers are them and they will interpret it and they will prosecute people for trying to get on boats,” Shadow home secretary Karen Andrews said Thursday.

Andrews also questioned Prime Minister Anthony Albanese about evidence presented by Vice Admiral David Johnston in Senate Estimated hearings that the Navy was “heavily” supporting Operation Soverign Borders in the form of aircraft surveillance and additional ships in Australia’s northern waters.


“Doesn’t this prove that Labour’s policy of ending the temporary protection visa deterrent provides an incentive for people smugglers to resume their evil business?” she asked.

But Albanese said the government will be “hard on borders without being weak on humanity.”

“When the Secretary of the Home Office was asked if the Ministry had advised against the changes [to TPVs] … he announced as succinctly as he could in one word – no.”

Indonesia’s Maritime Safety Agency, Bakamla, is scheduled to conduct its annual joint patrols with the Border Force in April, it said in a statement Thursday. It didn’t say whether patrols would be intensified as a result of Australia’s move to visas.

Six Sri Lankan boats with 183 people on board were stranded in Australian waters between May and August as the South Asian island went through an economic crisis of unprecedented severity.

Sri Lanka Navy spokeswoman Captain Indika De Silva said on Thursday officials would continue to work with the Australian authorities and their own intelligence services and police but there had been no attempts to reach Australia since then.

“Now they know it’s difficult to go to Australia because of Australian law,” he said.

With Karuni Rompies Indonesian refugees say Albanese’s visa change won’t drive them onto boats

Callan Tansill

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