A Government-convened expert group has suggested that Australia return
to the so-called Pacific Solution
to deal with its asylum-seeker conundrum, and break a political impasse.
Groups like Amnesty International argue asylum seekers arriving by boat make up less than 2% of Australia’s annual immigration
, and it's not that big a deal
The report was delivered today
The key points:
* Establish offshore processing facilities in Nauru and PNG as part of a "comprehensive regional network".
* Pursue talks on the Malaysian solution but seek more reassurances from Malaysia about the treatment of people who are sent there.
* Increase co-operation with Indonesia on joint surveillance, law enforcement, and search and rescue.
* Increase Australia's humanitarian intake from 13,000 to 20,000 places a year, and up to 27,000 within five years.
* Those who arrive by boat should not be eligible to sponsor family members to join them in Australia.
* Consider turning back boats in the future but only if operational, safety and legal conditions are met.
The full report his here
While the number of irregular arrivals to Australia is minimal
compared to other European nations, the issue of what to do with "boat people" has been an intractable one for Australia's Government since the so-called Tampa Election
in 2001 after which then Prime Minister John Howard decided to deal with the issue of over-crowding in Australia's immigration detention centres by reducing Australia's migration zone, and establishing offshore processing centres on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, and Nauru
. Most ended up being resettled
in Australia and New Zealand anyway.
Described as inhumane
, that policy was scrapped
by the newly elected Rudd Government in 2008. The move was welcomed
by the UN and refugee advocates
Subsequently the number of irregular migrants seeking asylum has sky-rocketed
. The new Gillard Government attempted to frame a new solution with first Timor Leste
and then Malaysia acting as offshore processing centres
, but the last option was blocked
by the Supreme Court earlier this year.
With the Christmas Island centre and other newly-built centres at or close to capacity and a number
of high profile tragedies
and rescues, Gillard charged former defense chief Angus Houston to come up with a solution even as numbers have hit new records
and a boat of 67 passengers is missing
Reaction has been mixed to the attempt to break the deadlock, for what is one of Australia's biggest political issues
The minority Government intends to put new legislation before the Parliament tomorrow, however the Greens are against all offshore processing
and the Liberal Party refuses to support the Malaysian option
. Amnesty International
is appalled by the recommendations. The Human Rights Law Centre
says the recommendations are a violation of Australia's international legal obligations. Malaysia is angry
. Indonesia has welcomed it. Save the Children praised it.