Friday, November 16, 2001

JAKARTA, Indonesia (Agence France-Presse) The government is considering revising its immigration law to make people-smuggling illegal, said a senior Justice Ministry official.
The law needs revising to reflect current conditions, Mohammed Indra, the ministry’s director of immigration monitoring, was quoted by Antara, the state news agency, as saying late Wednesday.
The law should include new clauses to criminalize human trafficking, fictitious sponsorship of immigration applicants and people-smuggling, Mr. Indra said.
Thousands of people from the Middle East and Central and South Asia use Indonesia as a stepping stone to reach Australia, trusting their lives to smugglers who often use dilapidated and overloaded boats.
Australia has pressed Jakarta for a crackdown, but Indonesia has no law against moving people across international borders without documentation or official formalities.
In the most recent tragedy, 350 asylum seekers, mostly Iraqis, drowned in the Java Sea as they headed for Australia in an overcrowded boat last month. Only 44 survived.
Indonesia has arrested the suspected organizer of the doomed voyage. Police say he is a Turk named Centin Kaya Nugun.
Mr. Nugun has been charged with violating an immigration law that carries a maximum sentence of up to six years in prison and a fine of $3,000.
Assistant Senior Commissioner Prasetyo, a national police spokesman who like many Indonesians uses a single name, said Wednesday that Mr. Nugun will be brought to trial “as soon as possible.” Police are seeking six other suspects, he said, declining to disclose their identities.
Some of the 44 survivors had identified Mr. Nugun as “Abu Quassey,” who they believed was an Egyptian. Indonesian police determined his real identity this week. The survivors said they had paid $2,000 to $4,000 each for the trip.
Australia last month asked Indonesia to extradite the people-smuggler who organized the disastrous trip but did not name him.
“We know the name of the person who was involved,” Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock said at the time. “We’ve passed it on to Indonesia already on a number of occasions.
“He’s an Egyptian by background and he’s been trafficking before,” Mr. Ruddock added. Cairo’s embassy in Jakarta denied the detained man was an Egyptian.
Meanwhile in Australia, the trial in Perth of an Indonesian youth charged with trying to smuggle more than 400 people into Australia in August was adjourned Tuesday amid a dispute over his age.
The youth said he was 17, but prosecutors insisted he was closer to 19, meaning he could be tried as an adult. The court adjourned the case until Dec. 12 to try to obtain a copy of his birth certificate from the city of Kupang, in West Timor.
The youth and three other Indonesians are charged with trying to smuggle 434 asylum seekers into Australia on Aug. 26. The would-be refugees were rescued by the Norwegian freighter Tampa after their vessel began to sink off Australian-administered Christmas Island, in the Indian Ocean.
But Canberra refused to let them onto land on Australian territory and shipped them to the tiny South Pacific island of Nauru for their claims to refugee status to be processed.

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