Indonesia has called for politics to be taken out of the approach to asylum seekers, urging its neighbours including Australia to share – not shift – responsibility.
Representatives from 16 countries and the UNHCR are attending a Jakarta workshop to look at ways to better protect asylum seekers, including with more timely search and rescue at sea.
Indonesia, which is troubled by the Abbott government policy of turning back asylum seeker boats, will meet with Australian representatives on the sidelines.
Opening the workshop on Monday, Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said nations must focus on “shared responsibility, not shifting of responsibility”.
“In managing the irregular movement of people at sea, we must ensure that their humanitarian needs are addressed … no matter their legal status,” he said.
“The only relevant status is that they are human beings.”
The minister told reporters his comments were not targeted at Australia.
“Essentially we need to take the politics out of this whole endeavour,” Dr Natalegawa said.
“When we underscore the point that our perspective must be protection-oriented, it’s not meant to be directed at any one particular country.”
The UNHCR says 10,623 asylum seekers and refugees are in Indonesia, but the number of people registering in Jakarta has slowed from 100 per day before the Abbott government policy was enacted, to 100 people per week.
Dr Natalegawa would not comment on whether this meant the policy was successful, saying he would leave experts like the UNHCR to judge.
Meanwhile, Dr Natalegawa says a code of conduct designed to get Indonesia and Australia working together again after co-operation halted over last year’s spy scandal, is progressing.
The code will reiterate the basic principals of the bilateral relationship and include a commitment not to use intelligence “in a manner that would be inimical to the other”, he said.