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
'Justice for All' demonstrations swell across the US over the deaths of African Americans in police encounters.
Six former Guantanamo detainees are now free in Uruguay with some hailing the decision to grant them asylum.
Disproportionately high number of Aboriginal people in prison highlights inequality and marginalisation, critics say.
Nearly half of Canadians have suffered inappropriate advances on the job - and the political arena is no exception.
Women's rights activists are demanding change after Hanna Lalango, 16, was gang-raped on a bus and left for dead.
Buried in Sweden's northern forest, Sorsele has welcomed many unaccompanied kids who help stabilise a town exodus.
A look at the changing face of North Korea, three years after the death of 'Dear Leader'.
While some fear a Muslim backlash after café killings, solidarity instead appears to be the order of the day.
Victims spared by the deadly disease are reporting blindness and other unexpected post-Ebola health issues.