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Australia puts $200k 'bounty' on heads of people smugglers

The announcement comes in the wake of Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's agreement with Papua New Guinea to send asylum seekers arriving by boat there.

Australia asylum seeker policy Enlarge
A protester holds a placard in the rain during a protest against the Australian Government asylum seeker policy in Melbourne on July 20, 2013. (Paul CROCK /AFP/Getty Images)

BRISBANE, Australia — Australia has put a $200,000 ''bounty'' on the heads of people smugglers operating in the country.

The announcement comes in the wake of Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's agreement with Papua New Guinea to send asylum seekers arriving by boat there.

The Fairfax Media cited Australia's Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare as saying that people smuggling, previously originating mainly in neighboring Indonesia, was increasingly organized in Australia.

''These people are peddling in misery and death [so] we are putting a bounty on their heads. We have taken the product they are selling off the shelves; we also need to lock these people up.''

Meanwhile, the Premier of Queensland state, which sits directly below PNG with only 2 miles of ocean separating their respective borders, has warned of a new flood of illegal migration as a result of the move to house asylum seekers there.

More from GlobalPost: Australia to send 'boat people' to Papua New Guinea

Rudd on Friday announced a new hardline policy stating that asylum seekers who arrived by boat would have "no chance" of resettlement in Australia, and would instead be settled in PNG.

A report on the Brisbane Times news website cited Queensland Premier Campbell Newman on Sunday said anyone from PNG could "row across in a tinnie [tin boat] or a canoe" into Queensland.

A report from Australia's ABC News, meantime, indicated that Rudd's policy might initially have some effect on asylum seekers contemplating the perilous journey by boat.

It quoted a group of Afghan Hazaras in Indonesia as saying they would now no longer attempt to make a crossing to Australia.

Muhammad Asif, speaking to the ABC via a translator, asked Australia to have pity on asylum seekers and fund the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to help process their claims.

Australia is a signatory to the UN convention on refugees, and the UNHCR office in Jakarta is underfunded and understaffed, the ABC wrote, with a backlog of more than 8,000 protection claims.

The translator told ABC:

"He said 'after I saw this, I will never go by boat. I'm decided to go join UNHCR'," the translator said.

"Before he see this he says he wanted to go by boat with most of his friends. They wanted to go by boat. One thing he requests ... from Australia, [is] to push the UNHCR. Please let it be faster. The process is too slow. Most of our people, we know they have a case, but [after] one and a half years, 30 months, 40 months, they are not going yet."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/130720/australia-indonesia-png-unhcr-smugglers-asylum