Indonesia leaves Scott Morrison in dark on detention centres

November 29, 2013 - 2:21PM
Natalie O'Brien

The Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has not been officially told that Indonesia is planning to close its police detention centres and release all the asylum seekers that had been arrested for trying to get on boats to Australia.

Mr Morrison told the weekly Operation Sovereign Borders briefing on asylum seeker issues on Friday that the media reports about the Indonesian proposal "were second hand" and he had not received any communication about the move.

He again refused to say whether he had been in contact with his Indonesian counterpart since the telephone spying scandal erupted earlier this month, or whether he would be making inquiries about the shutdowns. Advertisement

Mr Morrison was questioned about the detention centres after reports on ABC Radio that the Indonesian parliamentary commission chief, Mahfudz Siddiq, had announced that the police detention centres will be closed and asylum seekers released.

He refused to say whether the release of the asylum seekers would translate into bigger numbers of boats arriving in the near future - because he did not accept the assumption that the centres were closing.

However Mr Morrison and Operation Sovereign Borders Commander Angus Campbell both warned that the monsoon season, which has started, is a particularly dangerous time for anyone attempting to get to Australia by boat.

Numerous asylum seeker boats have run into trouble during the season, which is marked by big waves and strong winds including the boat that crashed onto cliffs at Christmas Island in December 2010 killing an estimated 50 asylum seekers.

At the briefing Mr Morrison also refused to comment on whether Australia had withdrawn all its navy and customs vessels from the Indonesian search and rescue zone, as the diplomatic crisis between Australia and Indonesia continued.

He did say the number of boat arrivals this month - traditionally very busy - is the lowest for November in five years.

Mr Morrison said that since Operation Sovereign Borders began 751 people had arrived on 15 boats.

Operation Sovereign Borders Commander Angus Campbell said there had been one boat arrival in the past week, with nine passengers on board and two crew making a total of five boats and 207 asylum seekers for November.


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