News / Asia

Australia Okays Controversial Refugee Swap Deal With Malaysia

Malaysian Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, foreground left, and Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen, foreground right, sign documents to swap refugees between the two countries, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, July 25, 2011
Malaysian Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, foreground left, and Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen, foreground right, sign documents to swap refugees between the two countries, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, July 25, 2011
Phil Mercer

Australia and Malaysia are going ahead with a plan to exchange asylum seekers for refugees. Representatives of the two Asian nations signed the deal Monday in Kuala Lumpur. It is part of Australia's plan to develop a regional solution to human trafficking. But the plan is not without controversy.

Under the agreement, Australia will initially send 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia for processing, in exchange for four thousand refugees who have had their cases for resettlement approved.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard described the agreement as “ground-breaking,” saying it would “smash the business model” of people smugglers.  

The premise is that traffickers will no longer be able to guarantee their fee-paying clients direct passage to Australia, thus decreasing the flow of unauthorized arrivals.

Australia has long attracted people from poor, often war-ravaged regions. More than 6,000 asylum seekers arrived by boat last year. Most are from Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Iran and Iraq, and use Malaysia or Indonesia as a transit point for traveling to Australia.

Prime Minister Gillard says no group will be exempt from the scheme, not even young children, pregnant women or the elderly.

“Let me say it again. There is [sic] no blanket exemptions," she said. "There will be an assessment process here and we have through this agreement worked to have special levels of support available for people who might have particular issues in Malaysia but there are no blanket exemptions.”

The plan, however, has angered rights groups.  

Phil Robertson, deputy director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch, said both governments are using the plan for their own purposes.

"The problem is Australia is using Malaysia as a dumping ground for boat people it doesn't want.  In the process, they're actually walking away from its commitments to follow the 1951 Refugee Convention," said Robertson. "And we think that for Malaysia, this is a sort of money talks [profit-oriented] kind of deal, and for Australia, it's a desperate move by a government with falling poll numbers seeking political traction on the backs of vulnerable people seeking refuge."

Amnesty International also criticized the plan, saying asylum seekers sent to Malaysia could face inhumane detention conditions.

Malaysia has not signed the United Nations Refugee Convention, nor has it ratified the UN Convention against Torture.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has not approved the deal between Australia and Malaysia.

Authorities in Kuala Lumpur have insisted the asylum seekers will be well treated. The arrangement will allow Malaysia to reduce the number of refugees currently living there, a figure currently estimated at around 93,000 people.

There is opposition too in Australia. About 200 demonstrators marched to an immigration detention center in Sydney on Sunday to protest the accord with Malaysia.

Australia grants visas to about 13,000 refugees each year under various international programs.

You May Like

At International AIDS Conference One Goal, Many Paths

The 12,000 delegates attending 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne have vastly different visions about how to eradicate disease More

Disasters May Doom Malaysia’s Flag Carrier

Even before loss of two jets loaded with passengers on international flights, company had been operating in red for three years, accumulating deficit of $1.3 billion More

Afghan Presidential Vote Audit Continues Despite Glitches

Process has been marred by walkouts by representatives of two competing candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Agei
X
Elizabeth Lee
July 20, 2014 2:36 AM
Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.
Video

Video Diplomatic Crisis Grows Over MH17 Plane Crash

The Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine is drawing reaction from leaders around the world. With suspicions growing that a surface-to-air missile shot down the aircraft, there are increasing tensions in the international community over who is to blame. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Undocumented Immigrants Face Perilous Journey to US, No Guarantees

Every day, hundreds of undocumented immigrants from Central America attempt the arduous journey through Mexico and turn themselves over to U.S. border patrol -- with the hope that they will not be turned away. But the dangers they face along the way are many, and as Ramon Taylor reports from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, their fate rests on more than just the reception they get at the US border.
Video

Video Scientists Create Blackest Material Ever

Of all the black things in the universe only the infamous "black holes" are so black that not even a tiny amount of light can bounce back. But scientists have managed to create material almost as black, and it has enormous potential use. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Fog Collector Transforming Maasai Water Harvesting in Kenya

The Maasai people of Kenya are known for their cattle-herding, nomadic lifestyle. But it's an existence that depends on access to adequate water for their herds and flocks. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA, on a "fog collector."

AppleAndroid