Added by Tania Sullivan on July 25, 2011
Prime Minister, Minister for Immigration and Citizenship
The Australian and Malaysian governments today signed a groundbreaking arrangement to combat people smuggling and provide protection to an additional 4,000 genuine refugees.
The arrangement demonstrates the resolve of Australia and Malaysia to break the people smugglers’ business model, stop them profiting from human misery, and stop people risking their lives at sea.
The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen MP, and Malaysian Minister of Home Affairs, Dato’ Seri Hishammuddin bin Tun Hussein, signed the arrangement documents at a formal ceremony in Kuala Lumpur today.
The arrangement provides for the transfer from Australia to Malaysia of up to 800 irregular maritime arrivals and formalises Australia’s commitment to accept 1,000 additional genuine refugees from Malaysia every year for the next four years. This increases Australia’s overall annual humanitarian intake to 14,750 places.
This is a bold and innovative arrangement between two countries that have a long-standing and strong cooperative relationship.
After today, 800 people arriving in Australia by boat will not be processed in Australia. They will instead be taken to Malaysia where they will have to wait alongside more than 90,000 other asylum seekers for their claims to be assessed.
Meanwhile, an additional 4,000 people considered by UNHCR to be most in need of resettlement will be given the opportunity to start new lives in Australia.
The arrangement reaffirms Malaysia’s commitment that transferees will be treated with dignity and respect in accordance with human rights standards, that it will respect the principle of non-refoulement, the key tenet of the Refugee Convention, and that asylum claims will be considered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
The transfer arrangement between Australia and Malaysia also provides that:
Arrivals will be subject to pre-transfer assessments to ensure fitness and suitability for transfer, along with basic biometric testing;
Transferees will be lawful in Malaysia and provided with exemption under the Malaysian Immigration Act and Passports Act;
Transferees will be initially accommodated in a transit centre in Malaysia for up to 45 days, with support from the UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration;
Following initial processing, transferees will move into the community, with work rights, access to education and health care; and
Transferees will receive no preferential treatment in the processing of their claims or arrangements for resettlement over other asylum seekers in Malaysia.
The UNHCR has been closely consulted on the transfer arrangement, and both the UNHCR and the IOM will play a vital role in its implementation.
Oversight and advisory committees, including representatives from Australia, Malaysia, UNHCR, IOM and others, will provide ongoing advice to both governments on day-to-day management of the arrangement and the ongoing welfare of transferees.
Under the arrangement signed today, those who arrived in Australia before 25 July will not be transferred to Malaysia. Consequently, the people who arrived prior to today’s announcement, currently being detained on Christmas Island, will now be processed in Australia.
Malaysia is a key regional partner in the Bali Process and this arrangement represents a significant step under the Regional Cooperation Framework established at the Bali Process Ministerial Conference in March this year.
This is a true burden-sharing arrangement in line with the principles of collective responsibility and cooperation that underpin the Regional Cooperation Framework.