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Indonesia + 3 others
Asylum seekers asking people smugglers for their money back because of PNG policy

By Indonesia correspondent Helen Brown

Asylum seekers in Indonesia have confirmed that some of them are asking people smugglers for their money back because of Australia's new PNG policy.

Australia has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Papua New Guinea to send asylum seekers to PNG to be processed and resettled there if they are found to be refugees.

News of the policy has reached Cisaura, in West Java, home to some of the thousands of asylum seekers stuck in Indonesia.

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Papua New Guinea + 2 others
Tony Burke says first asylum seeker transfer to Manus Island sends warning to people smugglers

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The Federal Government is using the arrival of the first asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea, under its new offshore settlement policy, to send a stern warning to people smugglers and their potential customers.

A group of predominantly Iranian and Afghan asylum seekers from the Christmas Island detention centre arrived on PNG's Manus Island about 7.45am (AEST).

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Indonesia + 2 others
Indonesia foils asylum seeker voyage

By Indonesia correspondent George Roberts

Indonesian authorities have arrested more than 120 asylum seekers who were trying to reach Australia.

Water police intercepted them at the mouth of a river in west Java as they attempted to make their way to the ocean and beyond to Australia.

On board were 126 asylum seekers from Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, but five managed to escape from authorities.

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Birth a deadly challenge in Afghanistan

A chronic shortage of midwives and basic health services makes having a baby one of the most dangerous things an Afghan woman can do.

A woman dies during childbirth every 29 minutes in Afghanistan, which is wracked by poverty, insecurity and deeply ingrained discrimination against women.

At a tiny ultrasound room at the Malalai maternity hospital in Kabul, 35-year-old Benafsha gives birth to a baby girl.

She already has five children; her family would have preferred another son, but she was dreaming of a daughter.

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Afghanistan: Taliban urged to stop attacking schools

By Afghanistan correspondent Sally Sara

Afghanistan's president Hamid Karzai has condemned the Taliban for carrying out attacks on schools.

Mr Karzai says if the Taliban wants foreigners to leave the country, they should let children be educated.

More than 8 million Afghan children are enrolled for school this year, 500,000 more than last year.

But the Afghan government estimates up to 4 million others - mostly girls - are unable to go to school because of a lack of security.

Four-hundred schools have been closed in the worst-affected areas across the country.

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No safety guarantee for returned Afghans

By Afghanistan correspondent Sally Sara

The Afghan government has conceded it cannot guarantee the safety of any failed asylum seekers deported from Australia to Afghanistan.

The Afghan ministry of refugees and repatriation says no-one can be held responsible for the security situation in Afghanistan and MPs want their government to scrap a deal signed with Australia last month.

Afghan MP Mohammad Ebrahim Qasemi says Australia should think twice about deporting unsuccessful asylum seekers.

"If they send them, the government

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Afghanistan: Australian government lifts freeze on refugee processing

The Australian Federal Government has announced it is immediately lifting the freeze on processing the refugee claims of Afghan asylum seekers.

The six-month freeze on processing was due to expire in early October.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen says all Afghans affected will now have their claims assessed on a case-by-case basis.

"During the last six months, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship has been working to improve its understanding of the situation of asylum seekers from Afghanistan, particularly

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Pakistan + 1 other
Asylum freeze having hardly any impact: Pakistan

By South Asia correspondent Sally Sara

Pakistani immigration officials say the Federal Government's six-month freeze on processing new applications from Afghan asylum seekers has failed to stop the flow.

Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) says the measure has not delivered any change in the numbers of Afghans travelling through Pakistan and hoping to get to Australia

Pakistani officials now want Australian permission to interrogate asylum seekers on Christmas Island in an attempt to break people smuggling rings in Pakistan.

Thousands of Afghan refugees cross the

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Afghanistan + 1 other
Asylum-seekers sent to Western Australian 'hell hole'

Simon Santow

The Australian Government's decision to reopen the Curtin Detention Centre in Western Australia has been heavily criticised by refugee support groups.

They call the move "punitive" and an abuse of human rights, and liken the facilities at the RAAF base to a "hell hole".

Curtin was closed eight years ago, but now the government is reopening the accommodation, attached to a part-time air base.

The air base just out of Derby will be used for accommodating single male Sri Lankan and Afghan asylum seekers who have had their claims suspended.

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Afghanistan + 1 other
Australia: Government could face court on asylum seeker freeze

By Samantha Hawley

The Federal Government could face legal action over what has been described as a "redneck" policy on asylum seekers.

The Government says conditions in Sri Lanka and Afghanistan are improving and applications from asylum seekers from those countries will not be processed for up to six-months.

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young says the Federal Government's decision to freeze certain asylum seeker applications is a redneck policy.

Senator Hanson-Young says it is a clear breach of the Racial Discrimination Act and she is concerned it will lead

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Indonesia arrests a dozen migrants heading for Australia

Indonesia has arrested a dozen Afghan and Vietnamese migrants who were trying to reach Australia.

An Indonesian official says the eight Afghans and four Vietnamese were arrested early Thursday on a small island near Makassar, the provincial capital of South Sulawesi province.

He says they were stranded on Kodingareng island after their boat suffered an engine problem.

The official says the migrants had offered to pay "a high fee" to local residents to repair the boat's engine but they reported them to the police instead.

An official from the provincial immigration

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Malaysia + 3 others
Malaysia under pressure over refugees

Karen Percy, South East Asia correspondent

As Australia steps up pressure on its Asian neighbours to reduce people smuggling in the region, the Malaysian government is under pressure to demonstrate its commitment to stem the human tide.

An estimated 100,000 refugees are thought to reside in Malaysia. The vast majority of refugees are Burmese but there are also significant numbers of Sri Lankans and Afghans.

While many of the refugees, especially those who are Muslim, would like to stay in Malaysia, increasingly they are being forced out.

Malaysia does not recognise refugees,

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Report reveals fragility of control in Afghanistan

By national security correspondent Matt Brown for AM

The biggest problem faced by Australian troops in Afghanistan's Uruzgan Province is a lack of support for a credible local government, a new report shows.

The majority of Australian soldiers in Afghanistan are based in Uruzgan, where they serve alongside members of the Dutch military who are preparing to withdraw from the region next year.

The report for the Dutch Foreign Ministry has been gathered by researchers from Afghanistan-based NGO The Liaison Office (TLO).

TLO researchers braved the Afghan conflict,

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Persecuted Afghans 'will die before going back"

Geoff Thompson, Indonesia correspondent

Immigration officials in Indonesia say 70 Afghan asylum seekers who were planning to sail for Australia - but who were detained last week - will be deported.

But the people - ethnic Hazaras - say they would rather die than be sent back to Afghanistan or back to refugee camps in Pakistan. where they say the Taliban is extending its control.

The Hazara, a Persian-speaking people found in the central region of Afghanistan and north-west Pakistan, are predominantly Shiite Muslims and are the third largest ethnic group in

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Another asylum seeker boat bound for Aust: reports

There are reports that another boat carrying up to 100 asylum seekers is heading towards Australia's north-west coastline.

It is believed the boat is being monitored by the Australian Navy and will be intercepted once it enters Australian waters.

The reports come as investigations continue into the explosion on board a boat carrying 49 Afghan asylum seekers near Ashmore Reef on Thursday.

- 23 casualties being treated in Perth; 21 in Darwin;

- Three confirmed dead, two still missing

- Authorities say most of the seriously injured are males from Afghanistan

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Deaths as asylum seekers' boat explodes off Australia

At least three people were killed, 46 injured and two are missing after an explosion on a boat carrying suspected asylum seekers to Australia.

The boat with 49 people on board was intercepted by an Australian navy patrol boat on Wednesday around Ashmore Reef.

The reef is more than 800km west of Darwin and about 600km north of Broome.

The group on board, believed to be from Afghanistan, were being escorted to Christmas Island, off the country's north-west coast.

The explosion came as both vessels were moored overnight near the reef.

Morning blast

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Afghanistan needs another decade of aid: Karzai

Afghanistan's president says the country will need foreign security aid for at least another decade before it can run its own affairs.

Hamid Karzai made the comments in the Netherlands where he is visiting ahead of an international donors conference in Paris.

In Paris, Mr Karzai is expected to seek $US50 billion in aid for his five-year national development strategy.

Afghanistan depends on aid for 90 per cent of its spending as it tries to rebuild an economy shattered by 30 years of war.

Kabul plans to spend more than half of

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240 troops to aid Afghan reconstruction

Prime Minister John Howard has announced the size of the Australian commitment to the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
In February, the Federal Government confirmed it would send the troops to Afghanistan as part of a regional reconstruction task force.

Mr Howard now says 240 troops will make up the force, which will be part of a Netherlands-led international mission.

"They will work on reconstruction and community-based projects as part of Australia's commitment to securing a stable and democratic future for Afghanistan," Mr Howard said.

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Govt ups Afghan troop commitment

An extra 40 Australian soldiers will be sent to Afghanistan within weeks, in addition to the deployment of 150 defence personnel the Federal Government announced last month.

The Government is also considering a further deployment in the first half of next year.

Defence Minister Robert Hill has told Parliament the additional troops are needed to provide the appropriate level of force protection and logistical support.

The special forces will be deployed in time for Afghanistan's parliamentary elections next month.

Senator Hill says they will play a dangerous but vital role.

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Australia Defence Association says return to Afghanistan 'makes sense'

A defence think-tank says it makes sense for Australian troops to return to Afghanistan.

Federal Cabinet is meeting in Canberra to discuss re-deploying troops, after the withdrawal of Australian special forces in 2002.

There is bi-partisan support for an Australian contribution in Afghanistan, where there is an upsurge in violence.

Neil James from the Australia Defence Association supports the move.

"The British and Americans are quite stretched in Afghanistan and Iraq, and indeed the new Afghan government

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