SYDNEY: Australia said on Friday it has struck a deal with Malaysia to disrupt the transit of asylum-seekers through the Southeast Asian nation to Indonesia, where they board boats heading for Australian waters.
The arrival of thousands of boatpeople has for years proved a major political headache in Canberra and Immigration Minister Scott Morrison estimated that more than half of those who reach Australia come through Malaysia.
He travelled to Kuala Lumpur this week for meetings with Home Affairs Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and said a series of agreements on “operational cooperation” were thrashed out.
“I was pleased to reboot our cooperation with Malaysia,” he told a regular weekly briefing on border protection opera-tions, adding that Malaysia was a “critical geographic link in the people smugglers’ chain to Australia.”
“Disrupting arrivals at KIA [Kuala Lumpur International Airport] or across the Thai-Malay border or preventing the passage to Sumatra across the Malacca Strait, is as critical, and I would suggest even more critical, than anything we do once that boat leaves Indonesia,” he said.
He did not go into detail of the agreements but flagged better information and intelligence sharing and said joint operations on people-smuggling would start immediately.