Australia worried about increase in asylum-seekers as Indonesia relaxes visa rules

Following Indonesia's announcement that they will remove Sri Lanka and Bangladesh from its immigration red list, Australia worries that they will soon receive a new wave of asylum-seeker boats.

Later this month Indonesia said they will relax visa restrictions for Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi citizens because there has been improvements in security and economic conditions in both countries. The country decided to proceed with relaxing the restrictions despite the Indonesian Immigration department having identified Sri Lanka, along with Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan as main source countries for asylum seekers going to Australia by boat.

There is also a possibility that Afghanistan and Pakistan could also soon be removed from Indonesia's immigration red list in the future.

Law and Human Rights Ministry immigration chief Bambang Irawan, said in January, when the new rules were announced, they could "lure more boat people heading to Australia".

"Obviously, nearly all of the boats come from Indonesia and if potential boat arrivals can more easily enter Indonesia, there is potential for a problem," said Opposition leader Tony Abbott.

"The government will continue to monitor the visa arrangements and their impact, and will work with Indonesia to address any issues that arise," said an Australian immigration department spokeswoman.

Currently there are more than 3,500 registered refugees in Indonesia with about 2,000 of the total number from Afghanistan. Therefore, if Afghanistan is removed from Indonesia's immigration red list, this number could grow significantly. This could result in an increased number of asylum seeker heading by boat to Australia.

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