Australia marketed as ideal refuge for asylum seekers: minister

Australia is being marketed overseas as an ideal destination for asylum seekers, Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock warned Sunday.

Ruddock made the claim after police on Indonesia’s resort island of Bali detained 14 foreigners, believed to be from Iran or Iraq, as they tried to board an Australia-bound flight with fake or stolen passports.

Indonesia’s state-run Antara news agency said the group attracted the suspicion of airport immigration officials because they held Canadian or Dutch passports but none could speak English.

Ruddock said the 14 were on their way to Australia to seek political asylum when they were stopped.

He told ABC radio the incident illustrated a desperate battle by people from many different backgrounds who were willing to break the law to move to Australia.

“The groups of people who were coming were primarily from Iraq and Afghanistan, but those numbers are falling,” he said.

“There are new groups of people, some Palestinians, some Iranians, Syrians.

“That suggests to me that the smugglers are in fact, I suppose in what you would call in the business area, market development.

“They are out endeavoring to sell unlawful travel in a much wider range of countries than we’ve seen before.”

Australia has seen a big jump in the number of people seeking asylum in the past two years, many arriving on boats which set out from Indonesian ports.