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

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license 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.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid