Prime Minister Julia Gillard has intoduced new legislation aimed at curbing the growing number of asylum seekers heading to Australia amid rising death tolls from their dangerous journey, Financial Times reports.
The influx of more than 7,000 asylum seekers from war-torn countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Sri Lanka arriving in rickety boats brought an alarming number of deaths: two boats capsized between Indonesia and Australia this year, with over 90 people believed to have drowned. Ms. Gillard told reporters that she was not “going to play politics or look at political scoreboards when too many lives have been lost”. The legislation, which will be taken up in parliament after a six-week break, will enable the deportation of asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea and Nauru.
The Labor Party argued that keeping Australian-funded refugee camps is an “expensive waste of money” and urged the government to send asylum seekers to Malaysia as part of a swap deal. However, the conservative opposition raised the issue that Malaysia has not signed the UN Refugee Convention and claimed that asylum seekers’ rights would not be protected.
An expert panel recommended the re-establishment of detention camps in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, saying that the Malaysian deal needs to address human rights concerns. Australia has also experienced a ‘disturbing trend’ of false distress calls from asylum seekers.