Indonesian immigration rules changes could lead to more people trafficking to Australia

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New relaxed visa rules in Indonesia for four Middle Eastern countries could trigger an influx of people trafficking to Australia. Indonesia plans to relax visa rules for nationals of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan; The changes have raised concerns with Australian Immigration authorities that the new laws could cause a rise in people smuggling operations to Australia. This year, Australian immigration authorities have already intercepted two vessels trying to smuggle people into Australia.

Indonesia has typically been the main transit point for asylum seekers heading to Australia. Additionally, Afghanistan and Pakistan are two of the main sources of asylum seekers. The changes to the Indonesian immigration laws are aimed at promoting Indonesian tourism and come despite the four nations being listed on Indonesia's so-called "red list" due to security fears.

Law and Human Rights Ministry immigration chief Bambang Irawan insisted security issues would be monitored by consulates processing visas.

"There's the potential for the new policy to lure more boat people heading to Australia," he said. "(We) may have an interest in increasing the number of tourists ... but we should also be aware of security problems resulting from their entry."

A spokesman for Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said there was "no update" on when the next round of border protection talks will take place. A decision could then be made as to whether or not the Australian government should reinstate offshore processing for asylum seekers and refugees.

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