Australia's Kevin Rudd To Send Asylum Seekers Straight To Papua New Guinea

Australian boat asylum seekers
Australian boat asylum seekers

Australia's Prime Minister has been condemned after announcing that all asylum seekers arriving by boat would be sent straight to Papua New Guinea.

Kevin Rudd was accused of abandoning the "world's most vulnerable people" after striking a deal with PNG, which would mean so-called 'boat people' would no longer be settled in Australia.

British Charities and campaigners slammed the move, pointing to PNG's grim human rights record, while a former government minister said it was "concerning" and hoped it did not set a precedent for other countries.

The UK Independence Party, which has fuelled the debate on immigration in recent weeks, admitted the "innovative" policy wouldn't work in the UK.

Rudd said the decision was aimed at cutting people-smuggling and deterring people from making the dangerous journey across the sea.

But Maurice Wren, chief executive of the UK-based Refugee Council, did not buy this explanation.

He told The Huffington Post UK: “The Australian Prime Minister claims the new measures are targeted at people smugglers, but the real impact will be felt by those who risk their lives fleeing their countries in search of safety from persecution."

Former Lib Dem minister Sarah Teather recently attacked the government's record on immigration, and bemoaned the lack of an "alternative voice" against the tough rhetoric.

Reacting to the news from Australia, she told The Huffington Post UK: "It's concerning that a wealthy country appears to be passing its responsibilities under the Geneva Convention onto its poorer neighbour."

Teather said she "sincerely hoped" Australia's action would not set a precedent for other countries to abandon their duties towards poor people.

Her fellow Lib Dem, Home Affairs Committee member Julian Huppert, added: "I think this is a very poor decision, but is sadly consistent with previous actions the Australian Government has taken to do with refugees."

Amnesty International's regional refugee co-ordinator Graeme McGregor said the move would be marked "as the day Australia decided to turn its back on the world's most vulnerable people, closed the door and threw away the key", the BBC reported.

The hardline approach was underlined by government communications chief Sandi Logan on his Twitter profile:

Ukip leader Nigel Farage claimed the case highlighted how Australian politicians were taking immigration more seriously than their British counterparts.

He told HuffPost UK: "Australia's approach in contracting out asylum processing to Papua New Guinea is innovative, but is not one that would be practical for the UK.

"After all we do not have a neighbour who would be willing to do the work for a fee.

"What we can take on board is the seriousness by which Australia tackles the issue from a bi-partisan perspective. At least there all parties take the issue of mass immigration seriously, something singularly lacking in the UK".

Unveiling the policy Rudd, who ousted Julia Gillard last month, said: "From now on, any asylum seeker who arrives in Australia by boat will have no chance of being settled in Australia as refugees."

The Guardian painted a grim picture of life in PNG for those turned away from Australia:

Unicef described Papua New Guinea’s children as among the most vulnerable in the world, due to extremely high rates of violence, customary child marriage, exploitation, police brutality and detention in adult jails for young offenders.

The country currently allows five forms of execution: hanging, lethal injection, medical death by deprivation of oxygen, firing squad and electrocution. Homosexuality is illegal and adultery is a criminal offence.

By Friday, 15,728 asylum seekers had arrived in Australia by boat this year, Sky News reported.

On Tuesday, four people died when a boat carrying 150 asylum seekers capsized off the country's Christmas Island.

Derek Wall, the Green Party's international spokesperson, said: "A right wing media has ramped up hysteria about immigration in Australia, forgetting that the majority of Australians are descended from immigrants.

"The governing Labor Party and opposition coalition are advancing more and more destructive rhetoric with an accelerating cost in human misery."

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