Nurfika Osman and AFP

An International Organization for Migration officer talks to Iraqi and Afghanistan asylum seekers after officials said overcrowding was partly to blame for the mass escape.?(JG Photo/Safir Makki)

An International Organization for Migration officer talks to Iraqi and Afghanistan asylum seekers after officials said overcrowding was partly to blame for the mass escape.?(JG Photo/Safir Makki)

Jakarta. The Justice and Human Rights Ministry has blamed overcrowding and officers’ negligence for the escape of 52 illegal immigrants from its Kalideres Immigration Detention Center in West Jakarta.

The immigrants — 26 from Afghanistan, 14 from Iraq, four from Nigeria, three from Sri Lanka and one from Bangladesh — broke out of the facility on Tuesday night.

Four have been recaptured.

“The officers on duty failed to stop the immigrants from escaping,” ministry spokesman Martua Batubara told the Jakarta Globe on Wednesday.

“We’re going to punish those officers as soon as an investigation by the ministry has been completed.”

He said only three officers had been on duty at the time, making it impossible for them to recapture all the escapees.

Martua said the escape was likely sparked by overcrowding at the facility.

“That detention center was built to hold 120 people but at the time there were 161 people inside,” the spokesman said.

The problem had been exacerbated because one of the cells had been assigned to a mother and her children.

Maroloan Barimbing, a spokesman for the ministry’s Directorate General of Immigration, said the mother and her children had since been transferred to one of the ministry’s three detention centers in Bogor, West Java, as part of a batch of 26 immigrants moved out of the Kalideres facility, all of them Afghan and Iraqi families.

“We realize the Kalideres facility is overcrowded. That’s why we moved them,” he said.

Separately, Australian and Indonesian officials agreed on Wednesday to discuss plans for a refugee center in East Timor to stem the flow of asylum seekers headed to Australia via Indonesia.

Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said after meeting Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa that Jakarta would send officials to talks on developing the facility.

“[Marty] certainly understood the importance of a processing center in terms of a broader regional framework,” Bowen said.

On Tuesday, Australia and East Timor agreed to form a joint working group to develop the processing center.

East Timorese President Jose Ramos-Horta previously said the proposed center to be built in his impoverished nation had to be temporary and could cost about A$30 million.

Ramos-Horta dismissed reports of widespread domestic opposition to the proposal, saying people would agree once he had explained the humanitarian imperatives.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard first raised the proposal for the regional migrant detention facility in July amid a surge in the arrival of undocumented migrants by boat in Australian waters.

Thousands of asylum seekers head through Southeast Asia on their way to Australia every year and many link up with people smugglers in Indonesia for the dangerous voyage.

About 100 boats carrying more than 4,000 people have arrived this year, making the issue a politically sensitive one for Gillard’s fragile Labor-led coalition.

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