Long before Australia signed the deal with Malaysia to swap asylum seekers in exchange for the intake of recognized refugees, the Australian Greens have repeatedly condemned the Malaysian Solution, calling it inhumane.
Now that the deal was officially announced Monday, all hopes of finding homes for 800 asylum seekers looking to be settled in Australia are in tatters.
The Greens, along with human rights advocates, have failed to save asylum seekers to be settled in Australia as they will be sent off to Malaysia to live in limbo.
The Julia Gillard Government has sealed the fate of 800 “boat people” being held on Christmas Island off the continent’s north coast following a deal signed between Australia Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Chris Bowen MP and his counterpart Malaysian Minister of Home Affairs Dato’ Seri Hishammuddin bin Tun Hussein in Kuala Lumpur.
Australia’s Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) has announced that the historic arrangement will “combat people smuggling”.
Under the arrangement, Australia will send to Malaysia 800 “irregular maritime arrivals” and will officially accept 1,000 additional genuine refugees from Malaysia every year for the next four years. It allows Australia to send unrecognized asylum seekers to Malaysia and accept 4,000 UN recognised refugees.
‘The arrangement demonstrates the resolve of Australia and Malaysia to break the people smugglers’ business model, stop them profiting from human misery, and stop people risking their lives at sea,” DIAC’s press statement reads.
Arrivals in Australia before 25 July will not be transferred to Malaysia. People who arrived before the date and currently being detained on Christmas Island will be processed in Australia.
While the two nations’ governments consider the deal historic, the Malaysian Solution strikes a big blow to the Greens who have repeatedly condemned the proposed solution.
Greens spokesperson Sarah Hanson-Young has argued the deal has not been signed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Ealier, she announced, “Australians should not be fooled by the government’s insistence that this impending arrangement will protect the rights of 800 vulnerable people.” She noted that there’s no way the 800 people Australia expels will be treated any better than the 94,000 other asylum seekers in Malaysia.
Amnesty International Australia (AI) has also rallied behind the asylum seekers. It noted that Malaysia has consistently failed to ratify international standards that protect and promote the rights of refugees and asylum seekers.
Further, it insists that Malaysia is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees or its 1967 Protocol, the major international instruments governing refugee protection.
The AI similarly outlines some treaties where Malaysia is not an official party such as:
• International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR);
• UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruelty,
• Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT);
• International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination;
• International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR);
• 1990 International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
AI admits though that Malaysia observes customary international law like respect to the principle of non-refoulement. Non-refoulement is the cornerstone of refugees’ protection that prevents people from expulsion or return to a country where they face persecution or other serious human rights violations, nor can they be rejected at the frontier.
AI has also warned of the inhumane treatment of Malaysia to illegal aliens, including arbitrary detention, physical punishment, denial of the right to work and access to health and education.
Meanwhile, the Greens insists that the Malaysia deal, along with the government’s plan to sign another one with Papua New Guinea, are inhumane and will cost Australians at least $292m to “export our humanity and international obligations onto other countries”.
Hanson-Young posted in her Twitter the “Aust Govt will breach their duty of care to unaccompanied refugee children by dumping them in Malaysia: inhumane, cruel and costly. “
“Eight hundred people should not have to be sacrificed by taking a treacherous voyage to Australia before the government helps 4,000 assessed refugees,” the Greens conclude.