Iran has failed to show at a people smuggling conference in Jakarta casting major doubts over whether any tangible outcomes will come from the meeting aimed at stemming the flow of asylum seekers throughout the region.

As Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa opened the talks saying they were aimed at "deepening the type of cooperation" established under the so-called Bali Process, it emerged Iran - a main source of asylum seekers arriving in Australia - had boycotted the meeting.

The talks come on the same day that Indonesia closes the door on visas on arrival for Iranians, seen as a major step towards addressing the influx of asylum seekers transiting through Indonesia to Australia.

Figures obtained by AAP show there has been a steady increase in the number of visas on arrival granted to Iranians in the lead-up to the August 20 cut-off date.

In January, a total of 1,172 visas were granted to Iranians arriving in Indonesia compared to 2,257 in July. The figures for August were not yet available.

A spokesman for the Indonesian Immigration Department confirmed that Iranians had been arriving in greater numbers.

"Yes, there's been a rise these last few months," he told AAP.

Still, Dr Natalegawa said the regional conference presented an opportunity to deepen cooperation among source and destination countries in dealing with the asylum-seeker issue.

He told delegates from more than a dozen countries that the "increasing incidence of irregular movement of persons" was a problem common among nations across the region.

"This is I think a reality that many of us are confronting whether we are defined as being a country of origin or defined as country of transit or destination, or even all of the above," Dr Natalegawa said.

The movement of asylum seekers was "now occurring in an increasing manner", he said, adding that "deepening the type of cooperation" established under the regional framework known as the Bali Process was essential in addressing the "shared concern and shared challenge before us".

Australian Immigration Minister Tony Burke, who is attending the conference along with Foreign Minister Bob Carr, has also stressed the need for the meeting to build momentum towards a stronger regional approach to the asylum seeker issue.

"The conference is an opportunity to further foster cooperation and build momentum in what is indisputably a regional problem," Mr Burke said ahead of the talks.

But there are also doubts that the talks, an initiative announced by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at a bilateral meeting with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd last month, will result in any tangible outcomes.

There was little in the way of an agenda set out ahead of the meeting, apart from a vague statement from the Indonesian Foreign Ministry which said the talks were aimed at producing "concrete measures as well as a shared commitment among countries of origin, transit and destination".

In Australia, the Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has warned against Senator Carr and Mr Burke signing up to any agreement that may come from the talks due to the fact that the government was in "caretaker mode" ahead of the election next month.

The delegates were also expected to be briefed by the International Organisation for Migration as well as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

 

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