Australian Panel Criticised For Calling On Asylum Seekers To Be Deported

Human rights groups have criticised a plan to deport asylum seekers, who travel to Australia by boat, more than 1,000 miles away to Papua New Guinea.

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre described a recommendation by a panel of experts, set up by the Australian government, to process refugees in Papua New Guinea and the South Pacific island of Nauru as "a comprehensive package of harm". Some politicians have also warned the policy would take Australia back to the "bad old days."

The panel also recommended increasing the number of refugees the country took for humanitarian purposes by over 6,000 - from 13,750 to 20,000 per year.

Asylum seekers who were rescued from a troubled boat on the way to Australia wait inside a temporary detention room upon arrival at a local marine police station

Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston, who lead the panel, said: "We recommend a policy approach that is hard-headed but not hard-hearted. That is realistic not idealistic. That is driven by a sense of humanity as well as fairness."

But the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre's Pamela Curr said the report was a "a comprehensive package of harm".

"People will still drown [in boats going to Australia]. What this is making sure is that people drown elsewhere and don't drown right in front of us," she said.

Amnesty International's Dr Graham Thom said the reported recommended Australia breached its "human rights obligations."

“Sending asylum-seekers to places like Malaysia, Nauru and Papua New Guinea is unacceptable and a complete outsourcing of Australia's human rights obligations."

Refugee lawyer David Manne said the recommendations were "seriously flawed", telling Sky News: "We are essentially looking at a situation where we will be sweeping the dangers from our doorstep to doorsteps elsewhere and I think there are serious doubts as to whether this will really deter the boats coming to Australia."

The Green party, which holds the balance of power in the Australian upper house, said the report was going back to the "bad old days".

Leader Christine Milne said “at the heart of these recommendations today is going back to the Howard days, to the bad old days of John Howard. To the cruelty of Manus Island, to the cruelty of Nauru.”

But Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said the government would be "taking their [the report's] recommendations very seriously because the Australian people have had a gutful of this and they want it sorted."

According to the BBC since the beginning of 2012 over 7,629 people have come to Australia by boat to seek refuge.