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

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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.


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.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    @61.The Rockabilly Red - probably because of the same reasons that many Brits abroad carry on being British, speak English and live as though they were in Britain.

    But that's probably different and alright eh?

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    @ 88.coram-populo-2010

    "it doesn't mean loss of cultural identity if you abide by laws."

    Yes, but whose laws? current UK laws written for UK citizens or do we now start to include Sharia law into that also to show true cultural integration?

    Personally, I am deeply against Sharia Law and want zero part of it dictating my life to me in any shape or form.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    These offshore camps must be where all their Olympics stars were hiding out for the last fortnight.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    Isn't it ironic that Australia has this attitude to uninvited immigrants arriving by boat?

    Isn't that how most of them got there in the first place?

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    Maybe the UK should copy the idea. There are plenty of uninhabited islands off the Scottish west coast, and building an asylum processing centre there would upset no-one. The weather's not up to much and the crossing makes you seasick, but hey, they choose to come and that would be part of the deal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    5 Minutes ago
    So much Hypocrisy. Over 1 million Brits live in Austarlia. Why dont they stay in the UK and improve instead of going to the AUS and always drinking and football hooliganism.//

    Brits don't seek asylum in Aus and vice versa. I know it's 'racist' blah blah, but fact is, Brits and Aus/NZ might rib each other, but we're culturally similar.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    There are always two parts of immigration. Skilled and unskilled.
    I just don't understand why some people expect to be treated lawfully when they get into other countries illegally.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    85. SleepingSpur
    'Come to Bedfordshire and see how much of a second class citizen a white person is.'

    I see Jerome's query at 86 asking how this manifests itself hasn't had a response yet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    Why isn't the UK doing the same with our immigration?

    Personally, I have no gripe with immigration providing it is limited and does not cause the social and cultural tensions and problems we are now seeing. I deplore the Labour party for what they have done to the UK with mass, uncontrolled immigration because they simply did not ask the taxpaying, voting public what we wanted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    So much Hypocrisy. Over 1 million Brits live in Austarlia. Why dont they stay in the UK and improve instead of going to the AUS and always drinking and football hooliganism.

    How are poor countries suppose to develop if Rich countries keep bombing them. Libya had 0 debt and was a peaceful country before NATO. The USA uses aggressive protectionism to stop corporations from developing countries

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    Pity the headline didn't read 'England needs offshore processing centres'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    87. Rockabilly Red

    ' Luton ... a town where Sally Army Xmas collection are considered insensitive.'

    Really? Must make life difficult for the Salvation Army Charity Shop on George Street to keep going in such a hostile environment. Or then maybe you're exaggerating just a touch!

  • rate this

    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

    Comment number 88.

    I see more racism/cultural problems from those who persistently refuse to integrate into a society or country they flee too, yet disapprove of.

    Naturally, birds of a feather flock together for safety - but we are not birds. We are supposedly a higher species that must understand that integration is essential for harmony - it doesn't mean loss of cultural identity if you abide by laws.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    Try standing in the middle of Luton, singing 'Land of Hope and Glory', whilst wearing a Union flag t-shirt. See how long you last? A town where the appearance of a uniformed soldier can be called an offensive act. A town where the Sally Army's Xmas collections are considered 'insensitive'.

    It would be a shame if this was the only place in the UK that these things happened. Sadly, it's not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    @ 85. SleepingSpur

    Could you please elaborate in which way the "white people" of Bedfordshire are second class citizens ?
    That is a pretty charged comment that needs further clarification.

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    Come to Bedfordshire and see how much of a second class citizen a white person is. Then understand why multiculturalism is actually the transition phase of replacing one group of people with another.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    1 Hour ago
    Are those countries who complain about immigration not being somewhat hypocritical? Most of the worlds resources come from third world countries, where western companies ravage their land //

    Don't try the 'it's all our fault' routine. Many asylum seekers are from countries which suffer from poor government and culture, not lack of resource.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    If I follow your argument, then it is a miracle that we managed to cope before the 1950's mass immigration! sorry, I don't buy that. It is a matter of convenience to claim that immigrants take the jobs we don't want.

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    I think the people in Australia are not as stupid as the people in britain have been and continue to be over asylum seekers.


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