News / Asia

Critics Slam Australia’s Papua New Guinea Asylum Plan

A man shouts slogans against the Australian Labor Party (ALP) during a rally in support of asylum seekers outside an ALP meeting in Sydney, July 22, 2013.
A man shouts slogans against the Australian Labor Party (ALP) during a rally in support of asylum seekers outside an ALP meeting in Sydney, July 22, 2013.
Phil Mercer
Australia’s plan to send many asylum seekers to neighboring Papua New Guinea are being criticized by rights groups and opposition politicians. The move is part of an immigration policy overhaul by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, aimed at curbing the record number of people seeking asylum in Australia. For its part in the asylum plan, Papua New Guinea will receive generous aid payments.
 
The Australian government has begun an advertising campaign on radio and television to sell its controversial asylum plan to voters ahead of elections later this year.
 
From now on, unauthorized arrivals who come by sea will not have the chance to be resettled in Australia as a refugee.  Instead, they will be taken nearby Papua New Guinea and allowed to live there if their asylum claims are approved.
 
Advertisment: "People coming by boat will be sent to Papua New Guinea and permanently settled there. Paying a people smuggler is not a ticket to Australia. The rules have now changed.”
 
The plan was announced Friday, following talks between Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his Papua New Guinean counterpart Peter O'Neill. All asylum seekers arriving by boat will now be sent to Papua New Guinea and will not be re-settled in Australia if their asylum claims are successful.

The tough new policy comes ahead of general elections later this year, in which the country's immigration policy on asylum seekers is expected to be a potent political issue.  

Rudd's main opponent, conservative opposition leader Tony Abbott, has called for tightening immigration policies to deter refugee boat arrivals, but says he doubts the new agreement will work.
 
“Mr. Rudd has been misleading to the point of dishonesty about this. He said that under the arrangement struck, everyone who came illegally by boat to Australia would go to PNG and that no-one who went to PNG would ever come to Australia.  Neither of those assertions is borne out in the document,” Abbott said.
 
In recent months, the number of unauthorized boats heading to Australia’s northern waters has soared. Hundreds of asylum seekers have perished at sea in the last few years. There have been more than 15,000 arrivals since January, mostly from Iran, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.  That’s only about 2,000 less than for the whole of last year.
 
The Rudd government insists that many asylum seekers are not fleeing persecution, but are, in fact, economic migrants. Authorities hope the Papua New Guinea plan discourages many people from taking the dangerous journey by boat.
 
Critics, though, accuse Rudd of striking a deal that is too tough on refugees.
 
Immigration lawyer David Manne said while Papua New Guinea has signed the U.N. Refugee Convention, it lacks the capacity to ensure thousands of asylum seekers are well treated.
 
“Look the position is clear: even if Australia seeks to transfer asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea, it does not transfer our legal responsibility to those people in relation to their treatment and their ultimate fate, and that's quite clear under international law," stated Manne. "I mean the sad reality is Papua New Guinea is an extremely unsafe place; there is no assurance that people will be given the protection they're entitled to either under law or on the ground.”
 
Canberra is anticipating a court challenge to its asylum deal with Papua New Guinea, but ministers insist that the agreement will withstand judicial scrutiny.
 
Australia grants refugee visas to about 13,000 people each year under its international obligations.

You May Like

Photogallery Oxfam: Ebola Could Be 'Disaster of Our Generation'

Meanwhile, Fidel Castro, the former leader of Cuba, says the Caribbean island nation will 'gladly cooperate' with the US in the fight against Ebola in West Africa More

Multimedia Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

Refugees receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed More

India’s Ruling Nationalist Party Makes Gains in Regional Elections

Bharatiya Janata Party’s huge margin over its rivals puts it on course to form governments in the northern Haryana and western Maharashtra states More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fighti
X
Zana Omer
October 18, 2014 6:37 PM
The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.
Video

Video Church for Atheists Goes Global

Atheists, by definition, do not believe in God. So they should have no need of a church. But two years ago, a pair of British stand-up comedians decided to create one. Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans told the BBC they envisioned “something like church but without God". Their “Sunday Assembly” movement has grown from a single congregation in London to dozens of churches around the world. Reporter Mike Osborne visited with the members of a Sunday Assembly that now meets regularly in Nashville.
Video

Video Robot Locates Unexploded Underwater Mines

Many educators believe that hands-on experience is the best way to learn. Proving that the method works is a project developed by a group of students at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey. They rose up to a challenge posted by the U.S. Department of Defense and successfully designed and built an underwater robot for locating submerged unexploded ordnance. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's JFK Hospital Reopens After Temporary Ebola Exposure

JFK Hospital is Liberia’s largest and one of its oldest medical facilities. The hospital had to close temporarily following the deaths of two leading doctors from Ebola. It is now getting back on its feet, with the maternity ward being the first section to reopen. Benno Muchler has more for VOA News from Monrovia.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Expose Generation Gap

Most of the tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong are students seeking democracy. Idealistic youths say while the older generation worries about the present, they are fighting for the territory's future. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Hong Kong.
Video

Video Liberians Living in US Struggle From Afar as Ebola Ravages Homeland

More than 8,000 Liberians live in New York City, more than in any other city outside of Liberia itself. As VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports, with the Ebola virus ravaging their homeland, there is no peace of mind for these New Yorkers.
Video

Video Kurds See War-Ravaged Kobani As Political, Emotional Heartland

Intense fighting is continuing between Islamic State militants -- also known as ISIS or ISIL -- and Kurdish forces around the Syrian town of Kobani, on the Turkish border. The U.S. said it carried out at least nine airstrikes against Islamic State positions Friday. Meanwhile the U.N. has warned that hundreds of civilians would be massacred if the town falls to the militants. Henry Ridgwell looks at the strategic significance of the city.

All About America

AppleAndroid