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July 26, 2011


by refugeeactioncoalitionsydney

The government’s assurances of dignity and respect for asylum seekers transferred to Malaysia are meaningless, according to the Refugee Action Coalition (RAC).

Australia and Malaysia “partners in crime”

RAC spokesperson Ian Rintoul described Australia and Malaysia as “partners in crime”. “It’s not people smugglers’ business model that’s getting smashed by this deal,” he said. “It’s the 800 asylum seekers who have done nothing more than ask Australia for protection.”

“The core purpose of this deal is to outsource our human rights violations to one of South East Asia’s most infamous rights abusers. This is a ‘groundbreaking’ new low for Australia. We’re almost four years into a Labor government, and we’re still waiting for a humane ‘Australian solution’ that will actually respect human lives.”

“This Malaysian deal is nothing less than brutal people trafficking,” Rintoul continued. “People, perhaps including unaccompanied minors, will be abandoned to appalling privation and suffering in Malaysia. Australia is engaging in a form of collective punishment of people who have committed no crime.”

Bowen “mustn’t have read his own agreement”

“There’s not a single concrete proposal in the agreement to enforce guarantees that refugees will be properly treated,” said Nick Riemer, also from RAC. “Bowen’s and Gillard’s assurances aren’t even worth the paper they’re not written on. It’s laughable to think people will accept their word that protection safeguards will be enforced in Malaysia.”

“Mr Bowen has stated that the deal will be overseen by the UNHCR. He mustn’t have read his own agreement,” Riemer continued. “There’s nothing in it confirming UNHCR participation. The UNHCR aren’t even signatories.”

“Mr Bowen has also explicitly spoken of the health and education opportunities available to refugees in Malaysia. This is duplicitous in the extreme. Anyone who has watched Go back to where you came from knows what conditions are really like for refugees in Malaysia. There is not a single clause in the agreement that suggests anything will be different for the 800 deportees from Australia.”

Malaysian legal system never on refugees’ side

Malaysian human rights groups, as well as human rights groups in Australia, have strongly condemned the deal. “Malaysian civil society has received numerous assurances from the government concerning refugees,” said Renuka Balasubramaniam, Director of the Malaysian NGO Lawyers for Liberty, in June.

“However, when an affected refugee requires redress, no Malaysian court or government agency is willing to look beyond the letter of existing laws in order to deliver justice.”

The Refugee Action Coalition rejects the arguments of those who welcome the deal on the grounds that it improves the conditions for 4000 Malaysian refugees. Australia’s present humanitarian refugee intake is at an historic low.

Australia should do everything it can to find new homes for refugees currently suffering in Malaysia. But this must not be at the cost of the wholesale undermining of Australia’s basic humanitarian obligation to welcome refugees in this country.

For more information, contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713 or Nick Riemer 0435 533 027.

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