Australia drops Malaysia asylum-swap plan
Sydney drops controversial asylum plan and will now process asylum seekers onshore after failing to gain support of MPs.
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2011 14:20

Australia will now process asylum seekers inside the country after failing to secure enough votes in parliament to allow illegal immigrants to be processed outside its borders.

Last month, a court ruled that a plan to send 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia was illegal because Kuala Lumpur, which has not signed UN refugee conventions, did not offer enough protection for them.

Under the agreement, the asylum seekers would be exchanged for 4,000 unsettled refugees from Malaysia over four years.

The opposition refused to back the move and Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who leads a minority government that depends on the Greens for support, cancelled the scheduled vote after failing to secure enough support.

Gillard said: "The government remains committed to the arrangement with Malaysia, we believe it is the best policy outcome for this country, that it would give the maximum deterrence effect.

"Whilst we are committed to the Malaysia arrangement and believe it is the best policy outcome ... clearly we will not be able to implement it."

The government said it had hoped the swap deal would "deter people from risking their lives at sea".

However, in an interview with Al Jazeera, Graham Tom, Refugee Co-ordinator for the Australian arm of rights group Amnesty International, called the legislation a political ploy by the government.

Tom said the failed legislation amounted to "scaremongering and political posturing" by the government, which holds a single-seat majority in the lower chamber of the parliament.

He said Australian support of a regional approach to refugees and asylum seekers from Indonesia and Malaysia would show more of a commitment to fight what Gillard calls "the people-smugglers business model" that brings asylum seekers to the island nation.

"The numbers coming to Australia are small ... we don't have a crisis," Tom said.

Al Jazeera and agencies
Topics in this article
Featured on Al Jazeera
Swathes of the British electorate continue to show discontent with all things European, including immigration.
Astronomers have captured images of primordial galaxies that helped light up the cosmos after the Big Bang.
Critics assail British photographer's portrayal of indigenous people, but he says he's highlighting their plight.
As Western stars re-release 1980s charity hit, many Africans say it's a demeaning relic that can do more harm than good.
Remnants of deadly demonstrations to be displayed in a new museum, a year after protests pushed president out of power.
No one convicted after 58 people gunned down in cold blood in 2009 in the country's worst political mass killing.
While hosting the World Internet Conference, China tries Tiananmen activist for leaking 'state secrets' to US website.
Once staunchly anti-immigrant, some observers say the conservative US state could lead the way in documenting migrants.
NGOs say women without formal documentation are being imprisoned after giving birth in Malaysia.