domingo, 29 de maio de 2011

Pacific look to solve Australia’s asylum seeker issue

Pacific look to solve Australia’s asylum seeker issue

Last Updated: Sat, 28 May 2011 08:18:00 +1000

Pacific nations, including Solomon Islands, are appealing to the Australian Government to be made part of a new ‘Pacific solution’ for processing asylum seekers.Senior Australian Government sources have told The Weekend Australian newspaper several Pacific nations are keen to host refugee processing centres similar to those set up by the former Australian government under John Howard in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.”They’re coming to us,” a source told the newspaper on Friday night.It is understood Solomons Islands approached Australia after Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s push for an East Timor solution fell through and discussions between the two countries ensued.However the fragile political situation in Solomons Islands remains a concern for the Federal Government. A spokesman for Immigration Minister Chris Bowen told the Weekend Australian that the Government is not currently talking to Honiara about a refugee centre. The spokesman said the Government remains focussed on securing a deal with Malaysia and Papua New Guinea.

After approaching East Timor and Papua New Guinea to house regional processing centres, the Government now has an in-principal agreement with Malaysia – a country that has not ratified conventions on torture or refugees. Under the deal, Australia will send 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia in return for 4,000 refugees currently living in Malaysia. The plan has attracted interest from other nations in the region, with Thailand saying it would be interested in striking a similar deal with Australia.But currently the fate of more than 100 asylum seekers who have been intercepted in Australian waters since the Government announced the Malaysian deal is in limbo.The Government has vowed to process them offshore, but Malaysia has said it will not take any of Australia’s asylum seekers until its deal with the Government is finalised. Human rights groups and refugee advocates have criticised the move to process asylum seekers offshore, saying it harks back to the Howard government’s Pacific Solution.They have also pointed to Malaysia’s poor human rights record and evidence of caning in its detention centres.- ABC/AAP

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