Australia asylum panel recommends offshore processing

 
Photo released by the Indonesian National Search And Rescue Agency of a wooden boat believed to have up to 180 asylum seekers on board, off Christmas Island, Australia, 4 July, 2012 Asylum seekers often make the dangerous journey in boats that are poorly maintained

Related Stories

Australia should set up offshore processing centres for asylum seekers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, and "pursue" a refugee agreement with Malaysia, a panel says.

The three-strong independent panel was appointed by PM Julia Gillard to break government deadlock on the issue.

Australia has seen an increase in the number of asylum-seekers arriving by boat in recent months.

At least 170 people arrived in three boats over the weekend, reports said.

The panel said its recommendations aimed to encourage people to seek asylum through official channels and reduce the number of illegal boat arrivals.

Implementation would cost A$1bn a year ($1.06bn, £674m), it added.

'Realistic not idealistic'

The two offshore facilities should be established ''as soon as possible'', the panel said, as part of a ''comprehensive regional network''.

Australia asylum

  • In 2010, there were 6,535 Irregular Maritime Arrivals (IMAs - people coming by sea) in 134 vessels
  • In 2011, 4,565 IMAs arrived in 69 vessels
  • As of 13 August 2012, 7,629 IMAs had arrived in 114 boats
  • To date, July has been the busiest month, with 1,798 IMAs
  • Most of the IMAs from 2009-2011 came from Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Iran
  • Some asylum-seekers arrive by plane. Between July 2010 and June 2011, 6,316 people applied in this way

Source: Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship

The independent panel, led by former defence chief Angus Houston, set out 22 key recommendations in its report.

These include:

  • increasing Australia's humanitarian programme from 13,000 to 20,000 places a year, with consideration to go up to 27,000 in five years;
  • not allowing asylum seekers who arrive by boat to sponsor family members to come to Australia;
  • ramping up efforts to work with Indonesia on surveillance and search and rescue;
  • reviews of related laws, legislation, and a thorough review of determining refugee status.

"We recommend a policy approach that is hard-headed but not hard-hearted. That is realistic not idealistic,'' said Mr Houston, in a press statement.

Ms Gillard had been pushing for a compromise deal on the issue.

Her Labor Party backed a refugee swap deal with Malaysia, under which Australia would send 800 asylum-seekers who arrived by boat to Malaysia and receive 4,000 refugees in return over four years.

Last year a court ruled against such a move, saying Malaysia - which has not signed UN refugee conventions - did not offer adequate protection.

In its report, the panel called for the agreement to ''be built on further, rather than being discarded or neglected" and for ''safeguards and accountability'' to be strengthened.

The opposition, on the other hand, wants an immigration detention centre on Nauru to be reopened and for the navy to be able to turn back boats.

In its report, the panel noted that the ''conditions necessary'' to turn back boats in safe and lawful ways are ''currently not met'', but this ''could change in the future''.

Boats sunk

In June, Australia's parliament voted down an asylum bill after fierce debate was reignited by the sinking of two boats in one week off Christmas Island.

BBC Map

Parliament is due to reconvene this week.

"We'll be taking their recommendations very seriously because the Australian people have had a gutful of this and they want it sorted," Immigration Minister Chris Bowen told ABC Radio.

Asylum seekers often target Christmas Island, off Australia's northwest coast, to get to the country. They make the dangerous journey in boats that are usually overloaded and poorly maintained.

About 50 asylum-seekers died when their boat broke up on rocks off Christmas Island in December 2010.

Last Thursday, the Australian navy rescued more than 200 people from a boat in rough water - believed to be one of the largest number of arrivals in one boat.

 

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

Comments

This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
 
  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 160.

    Lastly - the asylum seeker debate has many facets. The main issue is who we let in the country under what circumstances. It's not a predominantly race/cultural issue. It's about national sovereignty vs. international humanitarian obligations. A business (people smuggling) has been established taking advantage of our goodwill - this undermines our immigration system and puts lives at risk.

  • rate this
    +17

    Comment number 89.

    Just come back from visiting folks in WA and to a man/woman they support the idea of moving all illegals off-shore. Why should they accept [eg] so many Sri Lankans when once they have become passport holders they return home and bring the remainder of their families? They have all seen what has happened in the UK and that multiculturalism does not work .

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 73.

    So Australia is going to spend 1 billion dollars a year to prevent a fraction of less than 8,000 people arriving per year ? do the mathematics - they could give 100,000 dollars to each person that arrived as business startup finance and it would be cheaper and probably end up making a profit. If someone has the guts to get to Australia against the odds then they have the drive to make it work.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 18.

    Sounds like a good idea so long as it's probably manged. If the model works, it should be more widely adopted with anyone who does not go through correct channels being denied residence. There is nothing wrong with immigration, but a lot wrong with out of control immigration.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 13.

    This is the right decision.
    Most of the recommendation goes against Julia Gillard's policies, but I have to applaud her, she is going ahead with legislation tomorrow. Far too many asylum seekers have been lost at sea because of people smugglers greed...I'm hoping this will put stop there caper.

 

Comments 5 of 6

 

More Asia stories

RSS

Features

  • Shiny bootsMarching orders

    Where does the phrase 'boots on the ground' come from?


  • Almaz cleaning floorAlmaz's prison

    Beaten and raped - the story of an African servant in Saudi Arabia


  • Train drawn by Jonathan Backhouse, 1825The first trainspotter

    Did this drawing mark the start of a misunderstood hobby?


  • MarijuanaHigh tech

    The start-ups hoping to transform the marijuana industry


  • Child eating ice creamTooth top tips

    Experts on ways to encourage children to look after their teeth


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.