Monday, June 20, 2011

Australia-Malaysia Refugee Exchange Issue: What I Understand/Have Observed About It

Recently, there has been some commotion regarding the refugee exchange deal between Australia & Malaysia. After reading up about it, hearing talks about it, I have noted the reasons this deal is opposed.
  1. The entire act of the exchange is in breach of something called the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention in which a government has no right to forcibly deport asylum seekers. Note, asylum here does not mean the loony bin.
  2. Australia being the instigator of the deal is technically merely transferring their international obligation & responsibilities to another country, especially since they are a signatory of the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.
  3. They have tried a similar move with East Timor and are currently in discussion with Papua New Guinea for a similar deal. Why is this a cause for disagreement? All 3 countries -- Malaysia, East Timor & Papua New Guinea -- are not signatories like Australia. This has something to do with international law and is apparently burdening Australia.
  4. Malaysia has no legal status for refugees. They are parked under 'illegal migrants'.
  5. These 'illegal migrants' in turn are then detained in notoriously poor conditions. Many detainees have died of poor living conditions, including poor sanitation, overcrowded conditions, insufficient bedding, low quality food, etc. If I remember correctly, 8 Burmese detainees recently succumbed to Leptospirosis (I believe transmitted via rodent urine).
  6. The big payoff Malaysia is receiving is deemed inhumane & implying as though the two countries are dealing with trade-able goods rather than human beings.
Whew. Hehe! In my honest opinion, Malaysia is giving away about 4,000 refugees and receiving --or rather taking back-- about 800 Orang Laut who had landed on Australia's shores. On that standpoint alone, I would've said doesn't sound like such a bad proposition. But after hearing the issues regarding the Refugee Convention and such, I think Australia may need to suck it up and find another solution BESIDES unloading the refugees onto other countries. I stress that it is NOT the people of of Australia or even Malaysia that I am dissatisfied at, but rather the select few in charge of making such decisions, in both Malaysia AND Australia.

Malaysia has roughly 90,000 refugees, and Australia is willing to take 3,200 of them off Malaysia's hands, scot-free? In fact, Australia is paying Malaysia RM1 billion. Hmm, must be something about that United Nations Refugee Convention.

Hmm. My opinions may be lopsided towards the downsides of the deal. I'm sure there must be very good reasons why both governments would go through with the deal despite pressure from activist groups and such negative feedback from the media. I certainly hope I can find out what they are. But for now, I'm going to go have lunch.

Au revoir!

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