Australia: Offshore Immigration Plans to be Halted

Posted September 4th, 2011 at 10:05 am (UTC-5)
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Australia's immigration chief says a Supreme Court ruling last month barring a refugee swap with Malaysia likely will force the government to suspend plans for processing asylum seekers in several other countries.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen spoke Sunday in Sydney. He said Solicitor-General Stephen Gageler reviewed the August 3 high court decision against the so-called Malaysia solution, and later advised that he has no confidence a similar refugee processing arrangement with Papua New Guinea or the island-nation Nauru could pass legal muster.

The high court ruling said asylum seekers can not be shipped offshore to countries that have not signed international conventions barring torture and the illegal treatment of refugees. Malaysia is not a signatory to a U.N. convention on refugees, and government analysts say neither Papua New Guinea nor Nauru fully enforces the treaty.

The ruling followed a deal struck last month under which the minority Labor government of Prime Minister Julia Gillard agreed to accept 4,000 asylum seekers awaiting settlement in Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur, in turn, agreed to hold 800 undocumented asylum seekers from Australia while their refugee claims are processed.

Canberra's government had hoped such a swap would discourage mostly Central Asian would-be refugees from hiring human traffickers to bring them by sea to Australia.