On Wednesday, the High Court of Australia ruled that the government’s proposed deal to swap its asylum seekers with refugees in Malaysia was illegal. The court, which expedited the case after the deal went into effect in July, declared that Australia could not legally send asylum seekers to any country that lacked a legal framework for refugees and asylum seekers.
Furthermore, the court noted that Malaysia has been unable to adequately protect asylum seekers or refugees. This fact was illustrated by Malaysia’s deportation of 11 Uighurs to China just last week, coupled with denying the UN Refugee Agency access to the detainees.
Given the Australian government’s deep disappointment with the court’s decision and its continued determination to outsource asylum seekers, this win is only a partial victory for refugee and asylum rights in the region. Despite being one of the few signatories to the Refugee Convention in the Asia-Pacific region, the Australian government still detains asylum seekers for extended periods of time and plans to open detention centers in both Nauru and Papua New Guinea. Although the court’s decision cannot be appealed, Australia’s Immigration Minister is sticking by the principles of the deal – to offshore its asylum seeker “problem.”
On the bright side, the Australian government indicated that it will continue to hold up its legal end of the deal by resettling 4,000 refugees currently in Malaysia. Policies like these, which share the burden with refugee-hosting countries, provide durable solutions, and uphold refugee rights, must be promoted if Australia is to make any concrete progress in stemming people smuggling.
September 27, 2011
| Tagged as: Malaysia, Asia