Friday, 5 August 2011

Asylum Seekers children sent to Malaysia

xmas island
These asylum-seekers arriving at Christmas Island are the first to face
deportation to Malaysia under a refugee swap deal.
Picture: Stephen Cooper Source: The Australian

The presence of minors aboard the vessel presents a political problem for the Gillard government, which is already facing attacks from human rights groups over the refugee swap deal.

It's not uncommon for young adult asylum-seekers to initially claim to be minors, believing they will have a better chance at being accepted as a refugee.

Immigration officials said later they had done checks on all asylum-seekers claiming to be minors.

However department spokesman Sandi Logan added: “But what we will not be doing is a full age determination analysis as we would do where there were any doubts for someone seeking a visa as a refugee in Australia.”

That was because the asylum-seekers would not be processed in Australia, but rather in Malaysia.

Julia Gillard yesterday refused to rule out sending child and teenage asylum-seekers to Malaysia under the deal.

“There are no blanket exemptions,” she told the ABC's Lateline program.

“There will be pre-transfer assessments and they will be undertaken properly by the relevant officials.”

Refugee lawyer David Manne said sending minors to Malaysia would place them at risk.

“The real concern is that children with a heartbeat, real children, could effectively be expelled to an uncertain and precarious fate,” he told The Australian Online.

The United Nations' children's agency said it  was extremely concerned that unaccompanied minors may be deported from Christmas Island.

“We note that it will be a case-by-case basis and we absolutely depend upon the minister to make the right decision in these instances,” UNICEF Australia chief executive Norman Gillespie told ABC Radio.

“It's a trauma to come to Australia in this manner, and it's an even greater trauma to then be deported.” Lawyers are worried Mr Bowen could send children to Malaysia despite his position as the legal guardian of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum.

Australian Lawyers Alliance president Greg Barns says if children are deported Labor would be breaching its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“Sending unaccompanied children to a third country such as Malaysia is clearly not something that can be said to be consistent with protection from harm,” he said in a statement.

“It is unconscionable.”

Final arrangements are being made in Malaysia to receive the first asylum-seekers under the newly-struck swap deal, under which Australia will send 800 boatpeople in return for 4000 certified refugees.

Mr Bowen refused to be drawn today on reports that two flights to Malaysia have been booked for Tuesday, except to say: “We're working towards a transfer as soon as possible.”

The government will film the asylum-seekers' departure, placing the footage on YouTube as a deterrent to others.

Ms Gillard said she was unconcerned with how the footage would be viewed by a domestic audience. “How individual people feel about any footage is a question for them.

“My responsibility as Prime Minister is to do what I can to stop people-smugglers preying on people, preying on their misery, taking their money and getting them to risk their lives at sea.”

Acting Opposition Leader Julie Bishop slammed Labor's swap deal as “a truly awful piece of public policy”.

Additional reporting: AAP

My View

What is going on with the implementation of the Malaysian solution is a shame on the humanitarian values of Australia. Where is the humanitarian fever of the once great ALP? Why are they pandering to the red necks that are setting the immigration policy? Why is it in tune with Tony Abbott's populist rants?

Where are the ALP members that has moral fibre that will not stand up to this ill considered policy? Why don't the Greens and the two rural independents demand a Gillard back down?

Australia stands condemned in the eyes of the world.

Shame on the ALP.

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