09 May 2011

New Australian immigration deal with Malaysia to curb people smugglers

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A new deal has been struck with Malaysia by Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC). In exchange for Malaysia taking 800 people who were picked up in boats heading for the Australian coast, Australia will accept and resettle 4,000 genuine refugees from Burma who are currently being processed in Malaysia.

Australian immigration

A new deal has been struck by Australia with Malaysia for the latter country to take back 800 people who were picked up in boats heading for the Australian coast.

At the moment, all arrivals by boat (including those ferried in by people-smugglers) are immediately detained by Australian immigration officials. While the primary detention centre is on Christmas Island, some asylum seekers are now being held in centres on the mainland.

Unfortunately, these centres are now struggling to cope with the numbers, with the centre in the Sydney suburb of Villawood recently experiencing a riot that saw nine buildings burned down.

The new agreement is intended to both reduce how many detainees these centres are dealing with, and also send a message to the people smugglers helping individuals arrive in Australia illegally.  Commenting on the deal, Prime Minister Gillard said: "This landmark agreement will help take away the product people smugglers are trying to sell - a ticket to Australia.

"The key message this will deliver to people smugglers and those seeking to make the dangerous sea voyage to Australia is: do not get on that boat. Under this arrangement, if you arrive in Australian waters and are taken to Malaysia you will go to the back of the queue."

However, the deal has been described as being "trading human beings" by their political opposition in the Liberal Party. Groups like Amnesty International have also been outspoken in their criticism, due to Malaysia not being a signatory to the UN's convention on treating refugees.


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