Bali talks about to begin
The Age (Breaking news)
Monday 28 April 2003, 6:05 PM

AAP: The foreign ministers of Australia and Indonesia will open a two-day conference on Tuesday aimed at gaining the cooperation of Asian and Middle Eastern countries on people smuggling and trafficking.

But as officials from 32 nations prepared for the talks in Bali, the case of SIEV-X people smuggler Abu Quassey re-emerged, underlining the difficulties even the conference co-hosts face in helping each other on the problem.

Late last week, without telling the Australian government, Indonesia quietly deported Quassey to Egypt, finally letting the man who admitted to helping arrange the fatal SIEV-X voyage go home.

The Egyptian national was quietly removed from immigration detention in Jakarta to a cell in Cairo.

Australian officials had tried unsuccessfully to have him transferred to Australia following his arrest in November 2001.

Although Quassey confessed to helping set up the trip in which more than 350 people drowned on their way to Australia in October 2001, Indonesia never charged him with any crimes associated with the disastrous voyage.

They said they did not have laws against people smuggling, and Quassey only served time in prison for immigration violations.

Australian officials have applied to Egypt to have him deported, Justice Minister Chris Ellison announced over the weekend.

Despite the SIEV-X episode, and despite agreeing in a statement with Australia last year to bring in the laws, the Indonesian parliament is yet to pass legislation that would bring someone like Quassey before a court here.

"It's a slow process," one official said.

Tuesday's meeting in Bali is the second of its kind and will be attended by Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock and Justice Minister Chris Ellison, their Indonesian counterparts and delegates from all over the region.

They are expected to promote a model of people smuggling and trafficking legislation developed by Australia and China, which countries can adopt for their own laws.

Mr Ruddock is expected to sign as many as four memorandums of understanding on people smuggling and trafficking with countries in the region.

The conference will also follow up on goals set out one year ago, when Jakarta and Canberra were struggling to recover from a falling out over Prime Minister John Howard's tougher policies to crack down on boat people before the 2001 election.

Indonesia insisted the issue be addressed as a region-wide problem.

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