Asia-Pacific nations vow action to stop people smuggling

Asia-Pacific nations agreed Tuesday to push for "more effective law enforcement" to stop people smuggling, Australia said as it seeks to stem the flow of asylum seekers arriving on its shores.

Australian Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O'Connor (L), Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa (C) and Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr (R) speak during their joint press conference in Nusa Dua on the resort island of Bali on April 2, 2013.

At a meeting in Indonesia, where many asylum seekers board rickety boats and set off for Australia, Foreign Minister Bob Carr said the 37 countries present agreed they would seek to make greater efforts to stop people smuggling.

"That means these nations are committed to seeing that there's more effective control at airports and more effective border protection," Carr told reporters on the resort island of Bali.

"To have the nations committed to more effective law enforcement is very important," he added, at the end of a two-day meeting of the Bali Process, which aims to tackle people smuggling and human trafficking.

"I believe it is a wretched trade and that in stamping out, we're safeguarding people from illusory hopes and risk to their lives."

Boat arrivals of asylum seekers have been a divisive political issue in Australia for more than a decade, and several Australian governments have pushed for other nations in the region to help stamp it out.

To deter people from making the dangerous journey, the Australian government last year launched a harsh new offshore processing policy, with many boatpeople being taken to camps on Nauru and Papua New Guinea in the Pacific.

Australia last year dealt with a record 17,202 asylum-seekers arriving by sea and has already seen 3,028 in the first three months of this year.

Many of them use Indonesia as a transit hub, linking up with people smugglers and boarding cramped and dangerous wooden fishing vessels to make the perilous journey to Australian territory, but hundreds have died in recent years.

About the author

Writer: AFP
Position: News agency