News / Asia

    More Boats Arrive Despite Tough Australian Asylum Plan

    Women hold posters bearing messages against the Australian Labor Party during a rally in support of asylum seekers in Sydney July 22, 2013.
    Women hold posters bearing messages against the Australian Labor Party during a rally in support of asylum seekers in Sydney July 22, 2013.
    Phil Mercer
    More than 1,200 asylum-seekers have sailed into Australian territory since the government announced a hardline policy to stop the steady flow of boats. Last week, Canberra said people arriving unauthorized on boats would have no chance of being resettled in Australia, and would instead be sent to Papua New Guinea. The U.N. Refugee Agency says it's uneasy with the plan, while protests against the policy are taking place in Australia.
     
    Despite the government’s promise to shut the door on asylum seekers arriving by sea, the boats continue to arrive. In the week since Canberra announced its plan to send unauthorized migrants to Papua New Guinea, 16 vessels carrying 1,200 people have sailed into Australia’s northern waters. The boats have come from Indonesia, and are organized by trafficking gangs that charge asylum seekers, mostly from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, thousands of dollars for passage to Australian territory.
     
    Despite the arrival of hundreds of people in recent days, Richard Marles, a senior government minister, denies that the policy already has failed.
     
    "We didn't suggest that boats would stop coming overnight. In fact, quite the opposite, I think we all imagined that there would be a process of people smugglers testing what the government has put in place and the new policy that we have. But we need to be very clear here. What this policy has done is taken Australia off the table. It will no longer be possible to get on a boat and be resettled in Australia and that message will get through,” said Marles.

    Human rights concerns

    The United Nations refugee agency is warning Australia that its decision to send asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea could breach international law and its human rights obligations. The UNHCR says that indefinite detention can damage the “physical and psycho-social wellbeing” of families and children.
     
    The agency's regional representative, Richard Towle, also is worried about the lack of protection for detainees sent to PNG.
     
    “There is no adequate legal framework for receiving, processing of refugees as of today, to govern the access to detention facilities. At the moment, people who are held there are held indefinite and what we found to be arbitrary detention, which is a fairly serious shortcoming," said Towle.
     
    The Australian government says it is confident its Papua New Guinea asylum plan will withstand any legal challenges. Demonstrations against the policy are being held in Australia’s major cities. Organizers expect hundreds of people to attend the rallies to challenge what they say is a rise in “anti-refugee sentiment in the Australia.”
     
    Canberra grants visas to about 13,000 refugees each year under official international resettlement programs.

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    Comments
         
    by: victoria
    July 29, 2013 3:25 AM
    Australians are fed up with people who believe we are obliged to take them without any obligations on their part. We expect these people to respect and obey our laws, not demand we change to suit them. They supposedly come here because they are persecuted, yet they want to fight other tribes or religious sects. We are sick of the increase in crime, shootings, rapes, destruction of property like the $60 million damage to a facility two weeks ago. That wasn't the first. We have a generous resettlement program for proven refugees, yet the people smugglers send in boat after boat of people who destroy their ID before phoning our Navy to pick them up. We are over it !!! The UN convention for refugees was signed in 1952...time to update it.

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