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Indonesia tightens visa restrictions

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Rudd ponders asylum changes

As details emerge of a deadly new boat tragedy off Christmas Island, PM Kevin Rudd is considering more changes to asylum policy.

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Indonesia says it will tighten visa restrictions for visitors from Iran, in one of the first moves in the region aimed at stemming the flow of asylum seekers entering Australia via Indonesia.

The Indonesian Minister for Law and Human Rights has signed a letter preventing people Iranian citizens entering Indonesia from obtaining a ''visa on arrival'' according to the ABC.

The visas can be bought at airports for about $25 and entitle people to stay in Indonesia for 30 days.

Refugees arriving at Christmas Island. Indonesia has removed the automatic visa rights for Iranians.

Refugees arriving at Christmas Island. Indonesia has removed the automatic visa rights for Iranians. Photo: Sharon Tisdale

Australia has previously lobbied for tighter restrictions on the visas, which it has argued were being used by asylum seekers who fly to Indonesia before travelling to Australia on boats. 

Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese described the visa breakthrough with Indonesia as ''pretty good news''.

''What it will do is stop the transit traffic to go from Iran, Middle East, Indonesia, get your visa on arrival and then have already pre-organised a people smuggler to put you on the boat,'' Mr Albanese said.

''That will be far more difficult if there's not an automatic transit through Indonesia. It's an example of good co-operation and I congratulate and thank the Indonesian government for doing what they've done.''

Liberal frontbencher Christopher Pyne also praised the development.

''It would be good if Malaysia made that same decision because that would then end the capacity to come through either Malaysia or Indonesia,'' he said on the Nine Network.

About one-third of asylum seekers arriving in Australia in 2013 have come from Iran, according to figures from the Department of Immigration, or more than 5000 people. 

Foreign Minister Bob Carr recently said he believed the majority of Iranian asylum seekers were seeking economic opportunity, not fleeing persecution. 

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd recently visited the Indonesian president and announced an agreement to promote greater regional co-operation on cross-border immigration issues. 

Labor is preparing to announce a shake-up of its asylum policy, which is likely to involve changes to the refugee convention.

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