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

Video Protests Continue in Ferguson, Spread to Other US Cities

Missouri officials say deployment of more than 2,000 National Guard soldiers helps curb second night of rampant arson and looting in Midwestern town More

Video Ebola, Crackdown on Illegals Hit Business in Guangzhou

Chinese city has largest community of Africans in Asia More

Video Legendary Lebanese Actress, Singer Sabah Dies at 87

Music and film diva, affectionately called 'Sabbouha' by millions of her fans, performed at Carnegie Hall in New York, Royal Albert Hall in London, Olympia in Paris, Sydney Opera House in Sydney 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.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid