Asian states pledge to tackle people smuggling

NUSA DUA, March 30, 2011 (AFP) – Asian countries pledged Wednesday to take a collective approach to people smuggling and asylum seekers including a possible regional processing centre, after talks in Indonesia. Ministers from around the Asia-Pacific region signed a non-binding framework agreement to tackle smuggling networks and humanely process the large numbers of irregular migrants moving through the region.

But an Australian proposal to establish a processing centre in East Timor seemed to have gone nowhere, after Dili said it was still considering the idea mooted last year by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said he had discussed the proposal with East Timorese Deputy Foreign Minister Alberto Carlos, who “indicated that this matter had yet to be deliberated upon” by the East Timor government.

“So we will wait the outcome of those deliberations,” Rudd told reporters in Bali.

Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen, who visited Dili late last year to discuss the proposal, said there was still a “range of views in East Timor’s government with how to handle it”.

“It’s a controversial issue in East Timor as you would expect. Cer