Coalition warns S E Asia could become 'asylum magnet'

SOUTH east Asia threatens to turn into an ''asylum magnet'' as regional talks to combat people smuggling drift away from deterrence towards processing, the Coalition has warned.

Shadow immigration spokesman Scott Morrison defended plans to send asylum seekers to Nauru and turn back boats to Indonesia as the most human solution to stop people risking their lives at sea.

And he dismissed comparisons between modern asylum seeker boats and the arrival of Indochinese fleeing Vietnam and its neighbours in the 1970s.

''Apart from the fact that more people have turned up in Australia on boats in the last six weeks than in the thirteen years of the Indochinese crisis, the fundamental difference is that the

Indochinese crisis was a home grown regional problem,'' Mr Morrison said.

''Today's asylum seekers are secondary movers from Central Asia engaged in what the [UN refugee agency] refers to as 'forum shopping' – their phrase not mine.''

Mr Morrison said Australia and south east Asian nations were always willing to help, but must not be tempted to take responsibility for the world's refugee problems.

He said a ''potentially conflicting agenda'' had clouded regional negotiations on people smuggling - known as the ''Bali process'' — after the Gillard government's failed attempts to set up processing centres in East Timor and Malaysia.

He said this created an ''imported'' problem in the region, putting a significant strain on Indonesia.

Mr Morrison delivered a speech to the Lowy Institute in Sydney yesterday pledging the Coalition would encourage regional countries to look into the ability of smaller vessels patrolling coastlines to stop smugglers.

Indonesia - made up of an archipelago of 15,000 islands - has consistently struggled to police its borders.

Mr Morrison said more sharing of identity data - including biometric information - was needed to tackle criminal networks.

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