Australia PM Abbott in Indonesia amid asylum seeker tension | News | DW | 30.09.2013
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Australia PM Abbott in Indonesia amid asylum seeker tension

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has arrived in Indonesia for his first trip abroad since taking office. His two-day visit will likely be dominated by immigration issues and the plight of asylum seekers.

Australia's newly elected Prime Minister Abbott met with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in Jakarta on Monday, in what is his first oversees trip since he was elected.

Those talks are likely to dominated by rising Australian-Indonesian tensions over Abbott's policies aimed at stopping asylum seeker boats from reaching Australian shores.

Abbott is accompanied by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Trade Minister Andrew Robb and several business people.

Abbott will arrive three days after a boat packed with asylum seekers bound for Australia sunk in Indonesian waters, killing 36 people.

Survivors of the accident claim that they sent their GPS coordinates to Australian rescuers but no one came to their aid.

Indonesia transit point

Indonesia is often used as a transit point by asylum seekers desperate to reach Australia's Christmas Island in hopes of starting a better life. The dangerous journey is often made on board rickety unreliable fishing boats which must cross about 340 kilometers (210 miles) of open sea.

Abbott, who took office two weeks ago after winning Australia's September 7 election, campaigned on a “stop the boats” mandate. However, Indonesia has expressed concern over his plan to have the Australian navy intercept and force back the asylum boats, saying this could infringe Indonesian sovereignty.

Before leaving Sydney on Monday, Abbott stressed the importance of the relationship between the neighboring countries, which have two-way trade valued at 14.6 billion Australian dollars ($13.6 billion) a year, according to his office.

"We will be covering a range of matters because this is an important relationship and it's important to get it right at the start of this new government," he said.

hc/ipj (AFP, AP, dpa)