Thursday 1 September 2011

Aussie court ruling ends ‘international charade’

Amnesty International and the DAP welcome the Australian High Court decision on the 'legality' of the Australia- Malaysia refugee swap deal. 

KUALA LUMPUR: Global rights movement  Amnesty International (AI) today lauded an Australian High Court decision  ‘stopping’  a controversial refugee swap deal between Australia and Malaysia.

Describing the decision as “a landmark victory for human rights”, Amnesty’s refugee spokesman Graham Thom said AI had  consistently warned the Australian government that Malaysia was a dangerous destination for asylum seekers.

He said sending ‘vulnerable’ people to Malaysia violated Australia’s obligations under international laws.
“Amnesty International is delighted that the High Court has prevented this outrageous, politically-motivated scheme from going ahead.

“Malaysia is clearly not a safe destination for refugees and asylum seekers.

“The government should have not contemplated outsourcing Australia’s refugee protection obligations to a country which regularly canes, detains and abuses asylum seekers, and which refuses to sign the UN Refugee Convention,” said Thom in a statement released by Amnesty in the United States.
On Aug 31, Australia’s High Court ruled that the Australia-Malaysia refugee swap as illegal.

The court noted that Malaysia provided no legal guarantees to protect the rights of asylum seekers.

‘Common sense has prevailed’

The decision has been largely applauded by activists on both sides who felt that Malaysia as a non-signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention was the least suitable place to dump refugees.

Of particular concern to many was the fact that children were among the many refugees under the swap deal.

The decision, Thom said, vindicated Amnesty’s grave concerns that unaccompanied children would be at particular risk if removed to Malaysia.

“As the legal guardian of the unaccompanied minors, the Immigration Minister must act in the children’s best interests.

“Sending them to Malaysia is in blatant breach of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.”
“Now that the High Court has put an end to this sorry saga, it’s time for common sense to prevail,” added Thom.

“Australia should treat all asylum seekers equally, regardless of whether they come by boat or by plane.
“All asylum seekers should be processed on the mainland in accordance with our obligations under the UN Refugee Convention,” he said.

‘International charade’

Meanwhile Malaysia’s opposition party DAP has also welcomed the Australian High Court decision
Bukit Bendera parliamentarian Liew Chin Tong said the ruling had put a stop to “an international charade.”
“It has also highlighted the Malaysian government’s failure to be a signatory to the Refugee Convention, which has been ratified by 147 countries around the world.

“The arrangement between Australia and Malaysia on transfer and resettlement is akin to two sovereign governments engaging in trading humans for money.

“The 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees is the key legal document in defining who is a refugee, their rights and the legal obligations of states towards refugees. The 1967 Protocol removed geographical and temporal restrictions from the Convention,” he said.

Liew added that with the ruling, Malaysia, as a responsible member of the international community guided by ethics and principles, should not pursue the refugee swap deal any further.

“It should ratify the Refugee Convention immediately,” he said.

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