A NUMBER of key people smugglers operating out of Indonesia are believed to have forged a new “super syndicate” in a bid to secure enough passengers for boats bound for Australia amid a massive downturn in demand from asylum seekers.
The collapse in the trade, following the introduction of Australia’s policy of sending asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea and Nauru, has prompted some of those involved to consider abandoning the business altogether and seek resettlement.
One people smuggler, known by the alias Haji Aref, AAP has learned, is set to have an interview with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Jakarta on Friday – the first step in the resettlement process.
A source close to the new “super syndicate” has told AAP the members of the group, who until recently were in competition with each other, are now working together because alone, they have been unable to secure enough passengers to make a reasonable profit.
“A lot of smugglers are now getting together. There are five or six smugglers planning to send one boat because they don’t have enough passengers,” the source said.
“One smuggler has 20 people, another has five, others have more, but it’s not the amount they want because they want 80 to 100 passengers.”
The new grouping, which operates out of the asylum-seeker enclave of Cisarua in the foothills south of Jakarta, includes two smugglers from Afghanistan (Haji Aref and Jasem), two from Iran (Hesam and and Salar), and a Sri Lankan known as Nadin.
Aref, while involved in the new syndicate, is believed to have decided that the future of the business is unsustainable.
“When his work was so good he left the UNHCR, his papers expired, and he was just doing his work but now there is not enough (asylum seekers) to go to Australia,” the source said.
The latest move by people smugglers to keep their trade alive comes after they slashed the asking price for passage to Australia by thousands of dollars.
Just 12 months ago, asylum seekers were paying more than $6000 for passage, but some now are being asked to pay less than half that amount.
The Abbott government has said arrivals are running at about 10 per cent of the traffic at its highest level under Labor. -AAP