Australian govt says intelligence from Indonesia proves new asylum policy is working

CANBERRA (AUSTRALIA) - Asylum seekers in Indonesia are changing their minds about taking the risky trip to Australia and asking people smugglers for their money back, according to Australian Immigration Minister Tony Burke.

Mr Burke says the fresh intelligence information is proof that Labor's new offshore resettlement policy for asylum seekers is working.

"We have widespread examples on the ground, in Indonesia, of people asking for their money back from people smugglers," he said.

"There is no doubt that the message is getting through."

Under the Australian Government's new policy, announced by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd nearly three weeks ago, asylum seekers who arrive by boat will be processed in Papua New Guinea and resettled there if found to be refugees.

A similar arrangement has since been struck with Nauru.

Mr Burke says the policy is already deterring some asylum seekers, but could not say exactly how many had decided not to go ahead with the journey.

"For everything that's been attempted in the past, with people smugglers, it's become clear that the only way to affect them is to take their product away and to take their customers away," he said.

"The regional resettlement arrangements take the product away from people smugglers and the information getting out shows that now we're at the beginnings of their customers being taken away from them as well."

Mr Burke said a "significant number" of asylum seekers who had already been transferred to PNG's Manus Island processing centre are applying to return to their home countries.

"We now have a significant number of the people who have been transferred to Manus Island in meetings with the International Organisation for Migration, the IOM, organising their transfers back home," he said.

"In each of the instances of those interviews so far they have been people who do not have papers with them so those returns won't be able to be immediate but they are a very significant number of people now who are having those meetings with the IOM to organise their return back home."

The Immigration Minister has just returned from PNG where the agreement over offshore settlement was finalised yesterday.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison says the agreement will not prevent asylum seekers being returned to Australia.

"You will not find any bar on sending anyone back to Australia," he said.

"In particular, you will not find anything in there regarding those found not to be refugees in terms of any restriction of them being sent back to Australia.

"There is no such restriction." [ABCNews]
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