The West

Asylum seekers waiting in Indonesia to board boats bound for Christmas Island are pushing forward their travel plans in the wake of news of an upcoming election in Australia.

Many of those waiting in the asylum-seeker enclave of Puncak in West Java, about 100 kilometres south of Jakarta, have little understanding of Australian politics or the differences in terms of policy between the two major parties.

But they knew within hours of Prime Minister Julia Gillard's announcement on Wednesday that an election had been called.

Some of those who spoke to AAP said they would still make the perilous voyage to Australia if Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, who has vowed to turn boats around and send them back to Indonesia, was elected prime minister.

A 20-year-old Iranian named Ali and a 19-year-old Afghan named Alijane spoke to AAP through a translator.

“They say they have no choice,” the translator said on their behalf.

“The Australian government is difficulty. But they can't go back. They will be killed.”

Others fear a change in government could make getting to Australia more problematic, prompting a rush to get on the boats that will leave for Christmas Island in the coming days and weeks.

“They are trying to get out of here very soon, as soon as possible ... because of that announcement,” another Afghan said.

The young man, who says he is fleeing the Taliban, said the chatter around Puncak had turned to Ms Gillard's announcement as early as Wednesday night.

“My friends told me (about the election),” he said. “They guess that maybe the situation will be changed.”

He was not aware that asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat already risked being sent to Nauru or Manus Island.

He was under the impression that once his boat made it to Australian waters he would be picked up by police and spend a few weeks in a detention camp before being granted asylum.

In his early 20s, he left Afghanistan just over a month ago.

He travelled through India and then Malaysia, before boarding a boat to Indonesia and then making his way to Puncak.

He has already paid $9000 to people smugglers and will pay more for the final leg to Australia.

Despite monsoonal weather lashing much of Indonesia and the waters between the archipelago and Christmas Island, he and his friends have been told that now is the best time to leave.

“We know they (people smugglers) are lying,” he said. “We know that the boat might sink.”

It's unsurprising that at the nearby Cemerlang Sports Shop lifejackets are selling well.

The man behind the counter said that earlier in week he had sold four lifejackets to “illegal immigrants” and sold dozens each month.


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