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Turning the tide on asylum seekers in Kupang -

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KERRY O'BRIEN, PRESENTER: The deaths of two Australian soldiers along with eight NATO troops in
Afghanistan overnight highlights yet again the deadly nature of the continuing war against the
Taliban, and we'll analyse the implications of one of the bloodiest days in that campaign shortly.

It also underscores why some Afghans will continue to risk long voyages in leaky boats trying to
find a safer home in Australia.

But part of Kevin Rudd's Indonesia Solution to discourage the current flow of asylum seekers is to
work in tandem with the Indonesian Government in a full frontal assault on Indonesian-based people

Since last September, an Indonesian police taskforce has been tracking people smugglers and
detaining asylum seekers, backed by millions of dollars in Australian aid.

Indonesia correspondent Matt Brown gained rare access to the taskforce and reports that initiative
has already chalked up significant success. Here's his report from Kupang in West Timor.

MATT BROWN, REPORTER: For the sailors aboard HMAS Pirie patrolling the border with Indonesia is
rarely dire.

SEAN LOGAN, HMAS PIRIE: When I joined the ship, December last year, and then the first time we
sailed, I sailed on a Monday the first time, and we'd picked up an unauthorised arrival by Friday.
So, you know, it was straight into it.

MATT BROWN: The Australians have been training with the Indonesian Navy. Their combined mission: to
put a tighter seal on the border zone.

RUDHI AVIANTARA, INDONESIAN ARMY (voiceover translation): The main problem that we're dealing with
right now is the problem of illegal immigrants, people smuggling.

SEAN LOGAN: We think we could probably improve our relationships with those combined patrols. In
the past, we've both been doing it independently and we think that we could - we can get better
surveillance by doing it together.

MATT BROWN: While the two navies are focused on boarding boats at see, the campaign to stop asylum
seekers begins back on the land.

SEAN LOGAN: We also have intelligence on the ground so we kind of - we might know when they're
leaving or where they're leaving from.

MATT BROWN: More often than not, Kupang in West Timor comes up on the radar. Just 12 hours sail
away from Australia's Ashmore Reef, it's been a key staging post for thousands of asylum seekers.

MOHAMAD TAQI: We have lots of reason to come here, because we were in danger in our country.

ASMUTTULAH MAHMUDI: The Taliban is every day, they're fighting and they murder the people.

MATT BROWN: The asylum seekers are tracked by an eight-man Indonesian police team.

There are 12 taskforce teams like this working across Indonesia, aided by millions of dollars in
Australian training and equipment.

LILIK APRIYANTO, POLICE TASKFORCE (voiceover translation): We use our intelligence and we use the
network so that every officer and every community member can help the taskforce by telling us when
they see suspicious people.

MATT BROWN: Those detained end up here: Kupang's immigration detention centre is sometimes crowded
to double its capacity.

BENJAMIN TULASI, DETENTION CENTRE DIRECTOR (voiceover translation): Because of the number of people
here, we don't have enough water for bathing and washing.

MATT BROWN: Most detainees say they're from Afghanistan's Hazara minority, which is routinely
persecuted by the Taliban. Many have lost faith in the long wait offered by the UN refugee agency,
the UNHCR.

MOHAMAD TAQI: I know lots of people, that they have waited for 10 years here to take them - UNHCR
to them to other countries. But it's impossible to wait here, to wait for UNHCR. That's why we have
to go illegally to Australia.

MATT BROWN: A few, like Mohamad Taqi, are not yet 18.

If you were released from here, would you try again to go on a boat to Australia?

MOHAMAD TAQI: Maybe, yes, because I don't have any way to escape from this situation. If I cannot
go to my country, if I cannot continue my life in my country, so where should I live?

MATT BROWN: These men know the Australian Government's suspended processing Afghan asylum claims
for six months. Their hopes are now pinned on what happens after the next election.

SEKANDAR ALI: Maybe Labor Party will win. They are accepted asylum seekers. I know about it.

MATT BROWN: So you're hoping for the Labor Party to win the election?

SEKANDAR ALI: Yes, of course. The Labor Party will win election. God willing, they will win
election because we are prey for Labor Party.

MATT BROWN: Since the taskforce was established in Kupang in September, 430 people have been
detained. But the smugglers are not so easily contained.

For all of their apparent success, the taskforce has encountered a problem: one familiar to police
around the world. In response to the crackdown here, the smugglers have simply moved elsewhere,
launching their boats from other islands, in some cases much further north in the archipelago.

That means the asylum seekers must now spend many more days at sea just to make to it the region
around Kupang.

MOHAMAD TAQI: We wanted to go, but after five days our boat (inaudible) anywhere on the sea, we are
going to die.

MATT BROWN: As the smugglers shift their operations around the archipelago, they pose a greater
challenge to those trying to stop them.

LILIK APRIYANTO (voiceover translation): The taskforce's success in arresting these people doesn't
necessarily mean there are fewer people coming to Australia. Instead there are more because there
are many that we are still unable to catch.

MATT BROWN: In response, Indonesia's decided to boost the number of police teams from 12 to 16. The
Federal Government's support remains unchanged. But the taskforce has proved its worth to both
governments, opening a new window on the people smuggling trade. For example, it tracked an
Iranian-born Australian citizen guiding 70 people to the island of Flores, north of Kupang.

It even arrested a former Indonesian immigration official, brazenly wearing his old uniform when he
arrived at Kupang Airport accompanied by a group of Afghans.

LILIK APRIYANTO (voiceover translation): We had arguments, we had a clash with him, but we took him
to the police station. Then we found out he was organising for them to go to Australia.

MATT BROWN: The long-term effect of the taskforce is unclear.

LILIK APRIYANTO (voiceover translation): The people we are able to get are the operators in the
field. They haven't got a clue about who gives the order or who's behind it.

MATT BROWN: Some of the asylum seekers say they have been convinced not to try a boat crossing
again. And yet many others still hope to avoid the obstacles and reach Australia's shores.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Matt Brown reporting from Indonesia.