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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Asylum Seeker Swap Now Unlikely

The government needs the okay from the UNHCR before the refugee swap with Malaysia can go ahead so Chris Bowen has sent a delegation to Geneva. Malaysian officials have also been sent to Switzerland to give their guarantee that refugees sent by Australia will receive humane treatment. But it’s a slow process and there’s no guarantee as yet - UNHCR officials will fly to Malaysia in the next few days to see for themselves.

But they like the idea of a 4,000 to 800 swap and why wouldn’t they? We will take 4,000 long term refugees from Malaysia in exchange for 800 asylum seekers who arrive by boat. The 800 will spend an initial period in a processing centre in Kuala Lumpur to determine health and identity checks, then they will be issued UNHCR cards and live in the community to wait years for UNHCR processing.

Australia will provide funding to the UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) to cover the health and education costs of the group as well as all the Malaysian government’s costs, including final re-settlement. It sounds like an excellent deal for Malaysia and a very expensive one for Australia.

But things aren’t looking good for the government, the House of Reps voted to condemn it but the vote was close. They voted 70-68 in support of a motion by Greens MP Adam Bandt who called on the Government to immediately abandon the proposal and was backed by the Coalition. The Senate has already rejected the same motion.