Border security: Holding Indonesia to account for people-smuggling

Indonesia has again escaped criticism for recent outrageous posturing by the Indonesian Vice-President and their Ambassador to Australia. This is largely due to public debate on asylum-seeking in Australia once again mistakenly assuming that this is an Australian domestic issue alone when it is integrally a strategic policy issue with domestic ramifications. The situation has been exacerbated by the usual emotive sidetracking into irrelevancies that dwell on the symptoms of Australia's dilemma rather than address the real causes and the actual solutions needed. The hypocrisy and contravention of international law and international good citizenship of Indonesian posturing needs to be robustly challenged rather than naively accepted at face value.


Letter to The Australian
Saturday, 29 June 2013
(published Monday, 01 July 2013) 

Asylum-seeking is a strategic policy issue with domestic ramifications, not vice versa, as most public debate wrongly assumes.

And also just one facet of our complex strategic relations with our regional neighbours.

But enough is enough.

Recent Indonesian posturing that they are not the source of asylum-seeker flows, that this is solely Australia’s problem and that Indonesia is somehow not involved, are examples of a perpetrator blaming the victim.

When an Indonesian boat, organised by Indonesia-based (and often Indonesian) people smugglers, leaves an Indonesian port contrary to Indonesian law through the corruption or incompetence (at best) of Indonesian officials, Indonesia cannot evade majority responsibility.

Especially where the passengers illegally entered Indonesia using false documents that Indonesian officials know to be false but ignore through corruption, incompetence, misguided religious sympathy, anti-Australian racism or plain disregard for their national responsibility to reciprocate Australia’s longstanding status as a friendly and supportive neighbour.

Or when the boats are deliberately sabotaged well inside Indonesia’s internationally-designated zone of search & rescue responsibility, to force rescue by our navy, because the Indonesians refuse to rescue them as a deliberate policy response or through further incompetence or corruption.

Moreover, while refusing to sign the Refugee Convention — and rarely held to account for it in Australian debate — Indonesia is a signatory to the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air of the UN Convention on Transnational Organised Crime.

Its now well past the time that Indonesia was held to account for not meeting its obligations under international law, its own law and international good citizenship.

They could, for example, turn the tap off at Jakarta airport.

Australian discussion of asylum-seeking is invalid if it does not address the major part played by Indonesia’s serious derelictions of responsibility.

And especially where Indonesian official blustering is accepted blindly rather than challenged objectively.

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