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Corrupt Indonesian officials put visas on sale
Mark Dodd and Paul Maley | December 03, 2008 

Article from:  The Australian 
CORRUPT staff at the Indonesian embassy in Kabul are selling visas for $US1500 
($2350), the starting point in an organised people-smuggling racket, according 
to members of the Afghan community in Australia.

The Immigration Department has been advised of the allegations and has notified 
Indonesian authorities. 

On Monday, The Australian reported that the International Organisation for 
Migration chief-of-mission in Indonesia Steve Cook had identified a 
"considerable" increase in people-smuggling activity - a trend he in part 
attributed to changes to Australia's refugee policy. 

Immigration Minister Chris Evans said that while there had been an increase in 
people-smuggling, it was not due to the policy change. 

Hassan Ghulam, an ethnic Hazara community leader living in Brisbane, said 
worsening security in Kabul had forced the price of the Indonesian visas up 
from $US1200 four months ago to the current price of $US1500. 

"This is because the people are very eager to leave to Indonesia and then try 
their luck with a smuggler and get on a boat to come to Australia," Mr Ghulam 
told The Australian. 

More than 100 visas had been issued so far, he said, basing his estimate on 
information provided by members of the Afghan community in Australia and those 
still in Afghanistan. 

Impoverished Afghans wanting a better life in Australia were selling their 
worldly possessions to buy a visa, he said. 

The process involved paying a middleman with contacts inside the Indonesian 
embassy, Mr Ghulam said. 

After the cash was handed over it normally took between 24 and 48 hours for the 
visa to be issued. 

Mr Ghulam said Australian officials had known about the visa racket for months. 
A spokesman for the Immigration Department yesterday confirmed it was aware of 
the reports. 

A senior Indonesian Foreign Ministry official, who asked not to be named, did 
not deny the claims. 

"Whatever is the case, these are forged or illegal visas because we have a 
strict code of issuing visas from conflict areas," the official said. 

"If this is the case, we will conduct our own investigation. This will be a 
good opportunity to clean out our house from our side." 

The official said Jakarta was committed to co-operating with the Rudd 
Government in tackling the problem of people-smuggling. In Indonesia, an 
official from the sub-directorate for immigration and detention, Ahmad 
Khumaidi, confirmed there had been a slight rise in the number of Afghan 
irregular migrants arriving in Indonesia. 

An irregular migrant either lacked immigration permits or was in the country on 
a lapsed one, he said. 

Mr Khumaidi, who was unaware of the reports that visas were being sold 
illegally from Kabul, said 15 Afghan would-be asylum-seekers had been detained 
by police on November 3 in Serang, West Java, as they were preparing to leave 
for Australia. 

The revelations come at a sensitive time for the Rudd Government. The 
Opposition charges that there has been a recent surge in boatpeople arriving 
from Indonesia. 

In question time on Monday, Kevin Rudd said there had been only four boat 
arrivals this year carrying a total of 48 passengers. 

"The critical question is how we co-operate with our friends in the 
international community, most particularly in the Republic of Indonesia, in 
dealing with this challenge," the Prime Minister said. 

Immigration Minister Chris Evans said people smugglers were moving "up the 
supply chain" and recruiting customers directly from source countries, making 
it harder for authorities to track their movements. 

Yesterday, the Liberal Party moved to shore up its tough reputation on border 
security following the release of a dissenting report by two backbenchers 
calling for a radical overhaul of mandatory detention. 

Malcolm Turnbull addressed a session of the joint partyroom in Canberra 
yesterday, telling his colleagues there had been no change in the Coalition's 
position on the subject. 

"We are the party of secure borders," the Opposition leader said. 

"We must not encourage people smugglers."

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