Australia renews push for regional immigration centre

SYDNEY, October 8, 2010 (AFP) - Australia will urge Indonesia, Malaysia and East Timor to back its proposal for a regional centre to process asylum-seekers during talks next week, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said Friday.
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Bowen, who will leave Monday for Dili to begin high-level discussions on people-smuggling and border security in the three countries, said he had already had encouraging feedback from neighbouring countries.

"I won't be returning next week with a final deal, but I do intend to be progressing our arrangements for our regional processing framework with our regional neighbours," he said.

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Thousands of asylum-seekers, many fleeing the conflict zones of Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, have been intercepted en route to Australia from Southeast Asian transit points this year.

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Australia processes asylum applicants at its remote Indian Ocean centre on Christmas Island, but Prime Minister Julia Gillard has suggested East Timor could become a regional immigration hub.

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The idea initially received a cool reception in Dili, and Bowen said Friday the concept would only work within the framework of broader cooperation.

"An offshore processing centre without a regional framework is not the solu

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