Related posts in this blog:-Australian Parliament condemns Malaysian-Australian asylum-refugee swap deal
, : Refugee Swap Fails Protection Standards
‘Arrangement’ Opts For Burden Shifting Over Burden Sharing
(Bangkok, July 27, 2011) – Australia and Malaysia’s agreement to swap 800 asylum seekers who arrive in Australia for 4,000 refugees living in Malaysia fails to meet minimal standards for refugee burden-sharing, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to both countries’ prime ministers. The Arrangement between Australia and Malaysia on Transfer and Resettlement was signed on July 25, 2011.
“The refugee swap agreement should have been rejected outright because Malaysia is not a party to the Refugee Convention and has no refugee law or procedure,” said Bill Frelick, refugee program director at Human Rights Watch. “The gap in the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers between Australia and Malaysia remains enormous.”
In its letter, Human Rights Watch said that the failure of one of the two parties to accept the obligations established by the most relevant treaty regarding refugees and to apply customary standards demonstrates the hollowness of the agreement.
The protection and education of refugee children are of particular concern under the agreement, Human Rights Watch said. The agreement says nothing about “best interest” determinations or other basic principles of protection for unaccompanied children under international law, only that special procedures “will be developed.”
“The agreement ignores the special needs of unaccompanied children,” Frelick said. “Saying that implementing procedures will come later is no excuse for failing to spell out basic principles in the agreement itself.”
The agreement also says that school-age children will be permitted access to “private education,” but adds that if “such arrangements are not available or affordable” the children should have access to “informal education.” Neither private education nor informal education meet the standards for the right to free and compulsory primary education in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which both Australia and Malaysia are parties.
Australia’s willingness to admit 4,000 more refugees for permanent resettlement was potentially a great humanitarian benefit, Human Rights Watch said. But it urged the Australian government to separate that agreement from a deal that would deflect people seeking asylum in Australia to another country.
Malaysia’s willingness to recognize a group of asylum seekers as being lawfully present was also a positive development, Human Rights Watch said. However, creating an exception for 800 “swapped” people while 90,000 other refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia remain “illegal migrants” subject to deportation is unacceptable, Human Rights Watch said.
“Unfortunately, the Australia-Malaysia refugee swap agreement is more about burden shirking than burden sharing,” Frelick said.
For more information on the Australia-Malaysia refugee swap, please see:- The May 26, 2011 letter to Prime Minister Gillard: http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2011/05/26/letter-prime-minister-gillard-regarding-refugeeasylum-seeker-exchange-agreement-mala
- The June 13, 2011 letter to Prime Minister Najib: http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2011/06/13/letter-prime-minister-najib-razak-regarding-refugeeasylum-seeker-exchange-agreement-
- The June 13, 2011 letter to UN High Commissioner for Refugees Guterres: http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2011/06/13/letter-unhcr-regarding-refugeeasylum-seeker-exchange-agreement-between-australia-and
For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Malaysia, please visit:
For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Australia, please visit:
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In , Bill Frelick (English): + ; or + (mobile); or firstname.lastname@example.org
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IOM Witnesses Australia-Malaysia Asylum Seeker Swap Agreement http://www.iom.int/jahia/Jahia/media/press-briefing-notes/pbnAS/cache/offonce/lang/en?entryId=30100
IOM yesterday witnessed the signing of an agreement between Australia and Malaysia designed to combat people smuggling and discourage asylum seekers from risking their lives in small boats to reach Australia.
Under the agreement, which was signed by Malaysian Home Affairs Minister Dato' Seri Hishamuddin bin Tun Hussein and Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen in Kuala Lumpur, over the next four years Malaysia will send 4,000 recognized refugees to be resettled in Australia, and Australia will send 800 newly arrived "boat people" to Malaysia, where their asylum claims will be processed.
IOM will play an important role in helping both nations to implement the agreement, notably by facilitating the movement of the 4,000 refugees from Malaysia to Australia.
"We already move around 7,000 mainly Burmese refugees every year from Malaysia. These are people who are referred by UNHCR and accepted for resettlement by third countries. This deal will increase our caseload by about 1,000 people a year for the next four years - something that we welcome," says IOM Malaysia Head of Office Valerie Dourdin-Fernandez.
IOM provides medical screening, cultural orientation and makes all the necessary travel arrangements for refugees leaving Malaysia to start new lives abroad.
IOM is also planning to expand its activities in Malaysia, in close collaboration with the government and UNHCR, to help Malaysia to provide adequate care and maintenance for the 800 "transferees" arriving from Australia.
"We are currently looking into ways to complement services already provided by UNHCR, NGOs and the government to ensure that these people's stay in Malaysia is safe and dignified," says Dourdin-Fernandez.
The services will include an option that will allow any transferee who decides to abandon his or her asylum claim to voluntarily return home to their country of origin with IOM. IOM will arrange travel documents, air tickets, exit permits and, depending on the destination country, reintegration assistance.
IOM doctors will also screen new arrivals at a Malaysian government reception facility to identify vulnerable individuals who may need special help.
Transferees will be expected to move out of the reception facility and into the community after a maximum of six weeks and IOM is looking into how it can help them to find affordable housing, health care, jobs and education for their children.
For more information please contact Chris Lom at IOM's Regional Office for Asia & the Pacific in Bangkok, Tel: +66.819275215, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org