Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, the first Abbott government minister to visit Malaysia, has returned from meetings with Home Affairs Minister Ahmad Zahid with agreements on “operational co-operation” under his belt.
“I was pleased to reboot our co-operation with Malaysia,” he told reporters at the weekly Operation Sovereign Borders briefing.
About 60 per cent of asylum-seekers transit through Malaysia to Indonesia, where they board people-smuggling boats.
“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,” Mr Morrison he said.
Two important initiatives, dormant for the past year, had been restarted and upgraded, he said.
Australia will now push forward a proposed memorandum of understanding on transnational crime.
A joint working group is expected to lead to joint operations on people-smuggling as well as on drugs, guns and people trafficking.
“In addition, Dr Zahid undertook to take up our request to extend the constrained visa arrangements now in place for Iranians coming into Malaysia … to Iraqis and Syrians,” Mr Morrison said.
Mr Morrison also rejected suggestions of a capacity crisis on Manus Island, as more asylum-seeker boats arrive in Australian waters.
The minister told the weekly briefing the Coalition was working to rapidly boost the capacity of the offshore processing centres on Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island, as he confirmed the arrival of another two asylum-seeker vessel carrying a total of 170 people.
He denied there were capacity constraints at the offshore processing centres, despite the fact that significantly more asylum-seekers continue to be housed at Christmas Island than both the Manus Island and Nauru centres combined.
“I note that progress is being made on the expansion of the processing and accommodation capacity on Manus Island as well as on Nauru. Contrary to some media reports this week Manus Island is not at capacity,” Mr Morrison said.
He revealed another 400 accommodation places would soon be available on the PNG island.
Operation Sovereign Borders commander Lieutenant-General Angus Campbell said two boats had arrived over the last week, one carrying 126 asylum-seekers intercepted on Sunday morning, and another carrying 40 asylum-seekers picked up by authorities on Monday.
Commander Campbell said four crew members had also been transferred to Australian authorities.
Over the course of the week 118 asylum-seekers were transferred offshore, bringing the total population on Manus Island to 1,111 and 682 in Nauru.
But General Campbell confirmed 2,272 people continue to be housed on Christmas Island.
Mr Morrison defended the operation of the Coalition’s border protection policies, declaring they were having an effect despite boats continuing to arrive.
“There has been a reduction and particularly over the first month we saw a reduction of over 70 per cent in arrivals but the government is making no claim about that,” he said.
“It is for others to make comment on those matters. What we are resolved to do is to continue to deploy the full suite of measures we have available to us from destination to source to end criminal people-smuggling to Australia.”Source: The Australian – Anti people-smuggling ties with Malaysia rebooted: Scott Morrison
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