Deep fears held for Malaysia deportation deal: ERC

11/05/2011

Malaysia's poor human rights record and refusal to sign the Refugee Convention raise deep fears for the Australian Government's asylum-seeker deportation deal, according to the Edmund Rice Centre (ERC).

ERC Director Phil Glendenning says while there is a need for an effective regional framework to better protect refugees, the deportation deal is mostly about domestic politics and links Australia to policies which are inconsistent with both the Refugee Convention and the values the Australian people would expect their Government to uphold.

“Whilst we welcome the announcement that Australia will take more refugees, this idea of trading one group of vulnerable human beings for another group is not the way to do it,” Mr Glendenning said.

“The Edmund Rice Centre renews our call for disciplined bipartisanship on this issue. The human lives at risk are too important for poll-driven endless partisan point-scoring. In international terms the numbers coming to Australia are tiny.”

Mr Glendenning also said the vast majority of asylum-seekers coming to Australia arrive by plane rather than by boat.

“Unless and until our politicians get together and stop misleading Australians as to the gravity of this issue, and work on a bi-partisan basis to establish a serious framework with the other nations of the region, then this issue will continue to be exploited to divide the nation and punish very vulnerable people,” Mr Glendenning said.

“The deportation deal announced with Malaysia demonstrates that both sides of Parliament have allowed the asylum debate to become out of proportion to reality. It's of deep concern that a country like Australia, which has willingly signed on to the Refugee Convention, should consider sending people to a country that has refused to do the same – commit itself to be accountable to the same obligations to offer protection.

“Given Australia’s record in returning people to danger from off-shore detention centres outside Australian legal jurisdiction and Malaysia’s well-documented poor treatment of asylum seekers over many years, it is hard to see how any prospective bilateral agreement between Australia and Malaysia could provide the necessary protection.

“Asylum seekers and the Australian people deserve better than this.”

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