Indonesia passes laws criminalising people smuggling

Indonesia correspondent Matt Brown, wires
Originally posted April 7, 2011
Updated May 27, 2011 13:59:40

Indonesia's parliament has passed tough new laws aimed at fighting people smuggling, including penalties of between five and 15 years in prison for those convicted.

Corrupt immigration officials, who often assist people smugglers, will face up to seven years in prison for providing travel documents to people who do not qualify for them.

Those who fail to report officials, smugglers and asylum seekers guilty of immigration violations also face five years in prison.

Until now, people smugglers have been prosecuted for simple immigration violations or breaches of the maritime law which carry a relatively light sentence.

"We ratified today an amended law on immigration which includes criminalising people smugglers," said Benny Harman, a Democrat Party politician overseeing the immigration commission.

"This is a big step forward for us."

Australian Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor says the laws will have a positive effect.

"These laws will act as a strong deterrent so people engaged in this activity are more likely to be no longer engaged," he said.

"These come off the back of the recent laws passed in Malaysia.

"We're seeing a regional approach to this global problem and we applaud the Indonesian parliament today."

The anti-people smuggling law was first proposed about eight years ago.

It is not clear how long it will be before Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono issues a decree to bring it into effect.

Indonesia is a major transit route for asylum seekers wanting to reach Australia.

The new laws come after a people-smuggling conference in Bali last week reached a regional cooperation agreement.

On Wednesday, East Timor confirmed it had rejected Australia's proposal to set up a refugee processing centre there.



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