Australia Transfers Asylum Seekers Ahead of Refugee Swap

Posted August 4th, 2011 at 5:35 am (UTC-5)
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Australian officials moved 54 undocumented asylum seekers to its remote Christmas Island facility Thursday ahead of their scheduled transfer to Malaysia.

Dozens of Australian security forces stood by at a dock on Christmas Island as the refugees were brought ashore from a customs ship and placed onto a waiting bus.

The mainly Afghan refugees, who include 19 children, will be flown to Kuala Lumpur as early as Sunday, becoming the first asylum seekers sent there under a controversial refugee swap.

Australia will send 800 undocumented boat people to Malaysia to be detained while their applications for asylum are processed. In exchange it will accept 4,000 refugees whose applications have already been processed in Malaysia.

The scheme is intended to discourage future asylum seekers from trying to make the dangerous sea crossing to Australia in rickety boats. Officials said this week they will post a video of the initial refugee transfer on the Internet to make sure everyone gets the point.

But human rights groups object to the swap because Malaysia has not signed international conventions on the treatment of refugees and on torture. Many also say that unaccompanied children should not be included in the swap.