Indonesia offers Australia refugee camp island

Officials emphasize, however, that Indonesia will not be covering the bills

Indonesia offers Australia refugee camp island

World Bulletin / News Desk

Indonesia has offered an island to temporarily shelter asylum seekers trying to reach Australia following concerns that the increasing number of refugees stranded en route may disturb Indonesian security, local media claimed Friday.

Coordinating Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Panjaitan reportedly told The Jakarta Post that the offer would only materialize if Australia financed the camp.

"We can discuss the possibility of allocating an island [for refugees]. But Australia is required to finance it entirely," he was reported as saying.

Australia, he underlined, would also have to guarantee that refugees would be quickly accepted by third countries so that they would not be left in Indonesia.

However, Panjaitan later claimed to Australia's Fairfax Media that he had not been quite so forthcoming, telling them to ignore the newspaper report.

"In my conversation... I told them about Indonesia's experience with Galang [refugee camp]​ and we don't want to repeat that again. In the end it was us that was dealing with the problems," he said.

The Post, for its part, stands by its interview, with Fairfax reporting it has a sound recording.

This would not be the first time Indonesia has provided an island for refugees.

It accommodated around 170,000 Vietnamese refugees in Galang Island near Singapore between 1979-1996.

Data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) shows that there were 7,666 asylum seekers and 5,739 refugees in the country as of September.

They are mostly stranded in Aceh -- the country's northwest tip -- or else on East or West Nusa Tenggara -- two large islands in the south -- after failing to reach Australia or being caught by police or coast guards in Australian territory and sent back.

Member of Parliament Mahfudz Siddiq told Anadolu Agency the government's apparent offer will only cause problems for the country.

"I do not agree with the offer. It will not solve Australia's problems. On the other hand, it will make new problems for Indonesia," Siddiq said.

He suggested the two governments cooperate to prevent Indonesia being used as a transit country.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Kasım 2015, 15:53