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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid