03 June 2011

Australian immigration criticised over deportation plans for child asylum seekers

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Australian immigration has faced criticism from agencies of the United Nations and human rights organisations following the announcement that it plans to send unaccompanied child asylum seekers to Malaysia under a refugee swap that is currently being negotiated.

Australian immigration

Australian immigration has faced criticism following the announcement that it plans to send unaccompanied child asylum seekers to Malaysia.

The controversial move to return asylum seekers that arrive in Australia by boat to Malaysia has been under fire, especially the newly announced caveat that unaccompanied child asylum seekers will also be included in the  Australian immigration 'refugee swap'.

The plan is being proposed as a deterrent to any potential asylum seekers looking to enter Australia by boat, with the Malaysian government agreeing to take 800 asylum seekers from Australian detention centers in exchange for 4,000 registered refugees in Malaysia being accepted by Australia.

Commenting on the reasoning behind including unaccompanied children in the numbers of asylum seekers sent back to Malaysia, Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said: "I don't want unaccompanied minors. I don't want children getting on boats to come to Australia thinking or knowing that there is some sort of exemption in place,"

However, the UN refugee agency has criticised the plan as lacking safeguards, with their spokesperson Adrian Edwards making the following statement:

"UNHCR has always stipulated that one of our specific requirements with regard to the transfers is that protection safeguards are in place to protect vulnerable groups, especially unaccompanied children".

Currently, it is unknown how many of the approx. 6,200 asylum seekers who arrived in Australian by boat last year were unaccompanied children.


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