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

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid