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

French Refugee Drama Wins Cannes Top Prize

Dheepan is about a group of Sri Lankan refugees who pretend to be a family in order to flee their war-torn country for a housing project in France More

Photogallery Crisis in Macedonia Requires Meaningful and Swift Measures

The international community has called on Macedonian leadership to take concrete measures in support of democracy in order to exit the crisis More

Activists: IS Executes 217 Civilians, Soldiers Near Palmyra

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday said the victims include nurses, women, children and Syrian government fighters More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs