Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says that, effective immediately, all refugees who arrive in Australia by boat will be resettled in the South Pacific island nation of Papua New Guinea.
Rudd and PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill signed an agreement in the Australian east coast city of Brisbane Friday that will permit Australia to deport refugees to its impoverished neighbor.
Rudd told a news conference that boat people will be sent to PNG's Manus Island for processing and, if found to be true refugees, will be resettled in that country.
The new policy is an attempt to deter people from war-torn countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan from risking their lives traveling to Australia in leaky boats originating in Malaysia and Indonesia.
Hundreds have drowned attempting the journey. As recently as Tuesday, the Australian navy rescued 144 people from a boat that capsized in rough weather. Four people died.
A police official said that about 74 Rohingya refugees who were heading for Australia, were found stranded on an Aceh island by Indonesian fishermen, April 8, 2013. A
A police officer guides guides an ethnic Rohingya refugee from Burma off a boat that was headed to Australia before he is transported to a temporary shelter in Aceh Besar, April 8, 2013.
Hong Kong Immigration Department officials said mainland Chinese from a Fujian province, used passports with look-alike photos to smuggle into Australia, Spain, Brazil and Argentina, April 5, 2013.
This boat, carrying about 150 suspected asylum seekers capsized June 27, 2012 between Indonesia and Australia's Christmas Island in the India Ocean, the second such incident in less than a week, highlighting Australia's struggle to stem the flow of boat people.
According to police officials, about 66 people from Iraq and Iran were stranded for two days on Indonesia's Goa Island after their boat sunk in the Java Sea as they were making their way to Australia's Christmas Island, July, 2012.