Page last updated at 18:45 GMT, Tuesday, 20 October 2009 19:45 UK

Indonesia agrees to asylum deal

A boat with suspected asylum seekers off Australia's north-west coast. Photo: 15 September 2009
Many refugees attempt to reach Australia by sea

The leaders of Indonesia and Australia have agreed to join forces to tackle a big rise in the number of asylum seekers trying to reach Australia.

Jakarta said it would take in about 70 asylum seekers intercepted by an Australian customs boat at the weekend.

Both countries are facing increased pressure to stem the movement of boat people in the region.

There has been a tenfold increase in the number of asylum seekers reaching Australian waters this year.

Australia receives just a fraction each year of what the UN estimates to be more than 15 million refugees globally, but the issue splits voters.

The Australian opposition blames Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's government for relaxing the country's refugee laws.

'Clear framework'

Mr Rudd was in Jakarta on Tuesday for the inauguration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to his second term in office.

The Australian premier used the opportunity to seek co-operation on the treatment of boat people.

"There is recognition that we are going to end up faced with this problem again in the future," said Indonesian presidential spokesman Dino Patti Djalal later.

"So what we need to work out now is a clear framework for a better mechanism on how to deal with this in the future," he said.

One result of the talks is that more than 70 Sri Lankans picked up by an Australian customs vessel in Indonesian waters at the weekend will be allowed on shore temporarily, in the port of Merak in western Java.

Indonesia's navy also recently agreed to intercept another boat carrying about 260 Sri Lankans off the Java coast.

The Sri Lankan asylum seekers, all ethnic Tamils, highlighted their plight in a hunger strike, which they have now ended. They are still refusing to leave their boat.

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