Malaysia Deal May Be Safer: UNHCR
11 October 2011 at 11:41 am
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The Gillard Government’s proposed Malaysia swap plan has received an unlikely boost, with the United Nations refugee agency saying the Malaysia deal may offer better protection for asylum seekers compared to staying in detention in Australia.
As Parliament prepares to vote on legislation to bypass the High Court ban on sending asylum seekers to Malaysia, the regional office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says asylum seekers would receive better protection in Malaysia than they would if held in Australia in indefinite mandatory detention.
In a report in The Age, UNHCR regional representative Richard Towle said: “In the context of the Malaysian arrangements, the assurances of legal stay and community-based reception for all transferees can be seen as a more positive protection environment than protracted – and in some cases indefinite – detention that many face here in Australia, provided the assurances are carefully monitored,''.
Parliament will vote on Thursday on legislation to bypass the High Court ban on sending asylum seekers to Malaysia, with the fate of the bill in the lower house likely to fall on West Australian National MP Tony Crook.
Meanwhile a number of prominent Australians – including former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and former Australian of the Year Patrick McGorry – have signed an open letter calling on the Government to end offshore processing of asylum seekers.
According to the ABC, Fraser said the current asylum seeker policy ‘demeans Australia’, and that the Government is failing to listen to the Australian people, the majority of whom he says support onshore processing.
"The Government is there to lead. The Government is there to appeal to the best of our natures, and not to appeal to the worst of our natures," said Fraser. "So far the Australian people have proved themselves time and again to be way ahead of the Government and the Opposition."
The statement calls on the Prime-Minister and the Leader of the Opposition to abandon their separate plans for off-shore processing of asylum claims in favour of humanitarian policies similar to those enacted with bi-partisan support in the aftermath of the Vietnam War during the 1970's.