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Operation Sovereign Borders Update

Highlights from the weekly Operation Sovereign Borders briefing with Minister for Immigration Scott Morrison and General Campbell.

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Reports that “police detention centres” for asylum seekers in Indonesia are closing cannot be confirmed, with a number of sources saying there is no such thing.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison was quizzed on Friday about comments made in the Indonesian Parliament on Thursday that “police detention centres” would close .

Migrants look out from bars at a cell of an immigration detention center in Belawan, North Sumatra, Indonesia

Migrants look out from bars at a cell of an immigration detention center in Belawan, North Sumatra, Indonesia Photo: AP

But detention centres in Indonesia are run by the immigration department, not by police, and a spokesman from the Law and Justice ministry said there was no plan to close them.

Mr Morrison told the weekly Operation Sovereign Borders briefing on asylum seeker issues in Sydney that the media reports about the Indonesian proposal "were second hand" and he had not received any communication about the move.

He again refused to say whether he had been in contact with his Indonesian counterpart since the telephone spying scandal erupted earlier this month, or whether he would be making inquiries about the shutdowns.

He refused to say whether the alleged release of the asylum seekers would translate into bigger numbers of boats arriving in the near future because he did not accept the assumption that the centres were closing.

Mr Morrison was questioned about the detention centres after reports that the Indonesian parliamentary commission chief, Mahfudz Siddiq, had announced that “police detention centres” would be closed and asylum seekers released.

The reports emerged from a briefing in Indonesia's Parliament on Tuesday, in which Mr Mahfudz quoted the police chief, Sutarman, on the subject.

Fairfax Media has been unable to contact Sutarman to establish the truth of the story, but other police sources have expressed bafflement at Mr Mahfuz’s comments.

Monsoon concerns

Mr Morrison and Operation Sovereign Borders Commander Angus Campbell both also warned on Friday that the monsoon season, which has started, is a particularly dangerous time for anyone attempting to get to Australia by boat.

Numerous asylum seeker boats have run into trouble during the season, which is marked by big waves and strong winds including the boat that crashed onto cliffs at Christmas Island in December 2010 killing an estimated 50 asylum seekers.

At the briefing Mr Morrison also refused to comment on whether Australia had withdrawn all its navy and customs vessels from the Indonesian search and rescue zone, as the diplomatic crisis between Australia and Indonesia continued.

He did say the number of boat arrivals this month - traditionally very busy - is the lowest for November in five years.

Mr Morrison said that since Operation Sovereign Borders began 751 people had arrived on 15 boats.

Operation Sovereign Borders Commander Angus Campbell said there had been one boat arrival in the past week, with nine passengers on board and two crew making a total of five boats and 207 asylum seekers for November.