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    The tiny island of Nauru

The Gillard government's offshore dumping policy (2)

From Rudd to Gillard, post-Howard Labor never really recovered from Howard's Tampa wedge

On Saturday May 7, 2011 the Gillard government announced its "Malaysian refugee swap deal". Under this agreement, all boat arrivals, starting with the first 800 asylum seekers arriving from midnight July 26 2011, would be "deported" to Malaysia. The government intended quarantining all maritime arrivals for this purpose - starting with the July 31 vessel.


Click on this button to go to the previous section

This page is the second one in a 2-part series about the same topic - The Gillard government's offshore asylum seeker policy plans. Click on the 'back arrow' image to go directly to the Previous page.
 

However, a successful High Court challenge (Plaintiff M70/2011 v Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) saw this agreement legally defeated on 31 August 2011. The government responded by drafting amendments to the 1958 Migration Act (Migration Legislation Amendment (Offshore Processing and Other Measures) Bill 2011) to circumvent the High Court ruling so it could proceed with its original agreement.

This Bill was never brought to a vote, following fierce opposition by the Greens, Tony Abbott's Liberal-National Coalition and notionally National-Independent MP Tony Crook (Member for Pearce, WA). On 13 October 2011, the Gillard government accepted its defeat by abandoning progress of its legislation in the House of Representatives. Instead, it announced that all maritime asylum seekers would now be processed "onshore" in Australia while insisting its plans for the refugee swap deal would be maintained.

PM Gillard and her Immigration Minister Senator Chris Bowen maintained however, right from the start date of May 7 mentioned above, that all boat arrivals from this date 'could be' subject to deportation to Manus Island on Papua New Guinea for detention and processing purposes. Thus started a heightened media interest in every single boat arrival, and ongoing speculation about the fate of these passengers, resulting in a virtual media frenzy around boat arrivals.

What's on this page

This second page in this series continues the intense media coverage of boat arrivals following Gillard and Bowen's May 2011 announcements of their offshore processing plans and the 'Malaysia refugee swap deal'. The items reflect the fear and insecurity for the passengers, the stubbornness of Gillard and Bowen's hardline determination and the sheer ridiculousness of their plans.

Related pages

1 November 2013: Malaysia's response to Gillard's refugee swap plans - Not only proved Gillard's Malaysia refugee swap deal unpopular, legally condemned and fruitless in Australia, within weeks of its announcement it also came unstuck and was heavily criticised in Malaysia. Until the end of the Gillard government it was only Labor that kept harping on about it against better knowing. Australian reporters too shone a light on the prospects of asylum seekers under Malaysian rule, that was damning on all levels.

31 August 2013: The Gillard government's offshore dumping policy (1) - Under Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Labor kept lurching sharply to and fro before finally settling on leaving asylum seeker cruelty of John Howard well behind in its wake - creating its own newly ALP-constructed asylum seeker cruelty policy, from offshore detention on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea to an international refugee trade deal with Malaysia.

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Click the links below to jump down to the articles and items on this page with the same title.


Click on this button to go to the previous section

This page is the second one in a 2-part series about the same topic - The Gillard government's offshore asylum seeker policy plans. Click on the 'back arrow' image to go directly to the Previous page.
 

The Australian Navy intercepts a boat carrying asylum seekers north of Australia

Asylum seeker boat intercepted

AAP / The Age
Andrea Hayward
May 14, 2011 - 1:21PM

The first asylum seeker boat to arrive since the government announced it had negotiated a deal with Malaysia for offshore refugee processing has been intercepted in Australian waters.

The vessel was intercepted just off Scott Reef, north of Broome, the government said on Saturday.

On board were 32 people, believed to be from Afghanistan and Pakistan, and one crew member.

Intercepted boats normally would be taken to Christmas Island for refugee-claim processing.

But, the latest boat would be dealt with under the new arrangements, said Immigration Minister Chris Bowen.

It would still be taken to Christmas Island, but "will be processed (there) not for refugee assessment, but for removal from Australia," he told reporters in Sydney.

Mr Bowen said the asylum seekers would be taken to a third country "in line with the regional arrangements that we are entering into across our region."

"My message to people smugglers and to asylum seekers is very clear. We will not be accepting and processing people for asylum claims who arrive in Australia by boat," he said.

Under the new deal, the government will send 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia in exchange for taking 4000 people already judged to be genuine refugees.

However, Mr Bowen said, it was too early to say where the latest arrivals would be transferred.

Basic biometric and health tests would be conducted before they were transferred, the minister said.

"It's well known we've been in discussions with Papua New Guinea. It's well known we are in discussions across the region.

"We have an agreement to enter into a bi-lateral arrangement with Malaysia.

"I am not going to flag which country these people will be sent to, but they will be held at Christmas Island, pending removal to a third country."

Mr Bowen said they would remain at Christmas Island "for as long as it takes to have them processed and transferred to a third country".

He indicated Malaysia would have a say in whether or not it received some of the latest arrivals.

"We are in discussions with Malaysia. Those discussions are well advanced," he said.

"About the final details of the arrangement, the principals are very clear. Of course, Malaysia would want to be involved in the processing of people and in the transfer of people. Of course, they would, and that is perfectly acceptable and appropriate."

Commenting on a report in a Sydney newspaper, which suggested Serco, the contractor which runs Australia's detention centres, was set to make more than a billion dollars from people arriving by boat, Mr Bowen said he believed detention costs would decrease over time.

"We do update that contract to reflect the number of detention centres there are under their management," he said.

"I'm confident that, over time, as we break the business model of people smugglers, less people will be arriving in Australia, and we will be paying less to Serco.

"That is reflected in the budget."

http://www.theage.com.au/national/asylum-seeker-boat-intercepted-20110514-1en3w.html

First boat for Malaysia solution

AAP / The Herald Sun
May 14, 2011 3:51PM

THE arrival of a boatload of asylum seekers today shows the Federal Government's new policy is set to fail, according to the coalition.

A boat carrying 32 asylum seekers, and one crew member, was intercepted today near Scott Reef, north of Broome.

The group will be taken to Christmas Island pending removal to another country after Labor last week announced its plans to send asylum seekers to Malaysia and restart processing in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said the arrivals showed people smugglers had not been put off by Prime Minister Julia Gillard's spin on a people-swap deal with Malaysia.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen told reporters in Sydney today he could not say where the latest group of arrivals would be sent.

Mr Morrison said that was because the Government had no deal with Malaysia, PNG, East Timor or anywhere else.

"Labor needs to understand that you can't spin the boats away," he said. "Once again Labor are in a panic on asylum policy and are making this up on the run.

"Having realised that by announcing their panicked deal before it was agreed and operational they had issued an invitation to people smugglers, Minister Bowen is now trying to shut the gate once, in this case, the boats have bolted."

Mr Morrison said Mr Bowen had not confirmed if Malaysia had been specified as a place asylum seekers could be transferred to under Australian law.

"Unlike on Nauru or Manus Island, Australia will have no role in looking after the welfare of those potentially transferred to Malaysia under their five-for-one people-swap deal," he said.

"To make such a declaration, the minister must be able to justify how he can be confident that these protections will be in place."

The Immigration Minister had an obligation under Australian law to assure Australia that people will be looked after, Mr Morrison said.

Project SafeCom spokesman Jack Smit said Ms Gillard had chosen to use an unprecedented and callously-designed strategy to try to douse coalition criticism on the number of boat arrivals.

The policy would mean asylum seekers would be subject to degrading treatment in Malaysia, he said.

"Julia Gillard will be described in the history books not as a Labor leader like Bob Hawke, who she so admires, but like (former British prime minister) Margaret Thatcher, whose feminine ruthlessness earnt her the name of The Iron Maiden, or like the hardline former Prime Minister John Howard, who she has morphed into," he said.

"Today, this weekend's, and next week's actions around the boat that has just arrived north of Scott Reef, marks the new low of craven politics for political purposes by Australia of the world's most vulnerable population group - asylum seekers.

"Today is a day where we ought to be ashamed of Australia as a nation, and ashamed of its attitude to boat arrivals."

Opposition border protection spokesman Michael Keenan said experience had shown the Federal Government was paralysed with inaction when faced with riots and protests at detention facilities.

"Prime Minister Gillard has done nothing to reassure the Australian people that they will be able to act decisively in the event asylum seekers refuse to get on a plane to Malaysia," Mr Keenan said.

"Who will be responsible for getting asylum seekers on the plane at Christmas Island? Who will keep order on the charter flight from Christmas Island to Malaysia?

"Will asylum seekers be forcibly removed from the plane by Australian or Malaysian authorities?"

Labor's refusal to take asylum seekers off an Australian Customs vessel during the Oceanic Viking stalemate meant it was questionable how they would respond to a similar incident on a charter flight, Mr Keenan said.

www.heraldsun.com.au/.../asylum-boat-intercepted-off-broome/story-e6frf7kf-1226055851228

Asylum boat to be processed offshore

ABC News Online
Posted Sat May 14, 2011 11:46am AEST
Updated Sat May 14, 2011 12:32pm AEST

A boat carrying 32 asylum seekers intercepted last night will be the first to be processed offshore under a new Commonwealth policy.

About midnight HMAS Ararat intercepted the illegal boat off Scott Reef in the Timor Sea.

Those on board will be taken to Christmas Island where they will be processed and their identities checked.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen expects they will then either be taken to Malaysia or Papua New Guinea to wait for their asylum claims to be investigated.

"The Australian policy is very clear, my message to people smugglers and asylum seekers is very clear: do not come by boat," Mr Bowen said.

The arrival comes just a week after the Government announced a deal with Malaysia to send 800 asylum seekers there for processing, in return for Australia accepting 4,000 refugees who have had their claims processed in Malaysia.

The agreement is yet to be formalised and comes after East Timor rejected Australia's proposal to establish a regional immigration processing centre in the country.

Australia has instead asked PNG to house a regional processing centre, and reopening the mothballed Manus Island facility could be one option.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/05/14/3216886.htm

Boat policy a national shame: Smit

AAP / The Age
Andrea Hayward
May 14, 2011 - 2:11PM

A federal government announcement that the first boatload of asylum seekers to arrive under its new policy will be sent to another country is a shame to the nation, a human rights group says.

The government on Saturday said that a group of 32 asylum seekers intercepted north of Broome just after midnight would be taken to Christmas Island pending removal to another country.

Last week, Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced a deal had been negotiated for Malaysia to take asylum seekers.

Project SafeCom spokesman Jack Smit said Ms Gillard had chosen to use an unprecedented and callously-designed strategy to try to douse coalition criticism on the number of boat arrivals.

The policy would mean asylum seekers would be subject to degrading treatment in Malaysia, he said.

''Julia Gillard will be described in the history books not as a Labor leader like Bob Hawke, who she so admires, but like (former British prime minister) Margaret Thatcher, whose feminine ruthlessness earned her the name of The Iron Maiden, or like the hardline former Prime Minister John Howard, who she has morphed into,'' he said.

''Today, this weekend's, and next week's actions around the boat that has just arrived north of Scott Reef, marks the new low of craven politics and opportunistic userism for political purposes by Australia of the world's most vulnerable population group - asylum seekers.

''Today is a day where we ought to be ashamed of Australia as a nation, and ashamed of its attitude to boat arrivals.''

Mr Smit said if human rights crimes had prosecution and a prison sentence attached to it, the government would be in trouble.

''The prime minister, her immigration minister, Chris Bowen, and the Minister for Home Affairs and Justice Brendan O'Connor would be facing the dock this morning,'' Mr Smit said.

http://www.theage.com.au/national/boat-policy-a-national-shame-smit-20110514-1en4u.html

Labor sticking to guns on asylum plan

Andrea Hayward and Belinda Cranston
May 14, 2011 - 5:04PM
AAP / The Age

Labor is sticking to its plan to send asylum seekers to other countries for processing, despite broad censure of the policy with the arrival of the first refugees since a people-swap deal with Malaysia was announced.

A boatload of 32 asylum seekers and one crew member was intercepted north of Broome on Saturday, a week after the government brokered the deal.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said the refugees, believed to be from Afghanistan and Pakistan, would be taken to Christmas Island pending removal to another country.

It signals a change from the practice of processing claims at the island's detention centre.

"My message to people smugglers and to asylum seekers is very clear," Mr Bowen told reporters in Sydney.

"We will not be accepting and processing people for asylum claims who arrive in Australia by boat."

Mr Bowen said it was too early to say where the latest arrivals would be transferred after basic biometric and health tests.

"It's well known we've been in discussions with Papua New Guinea.

"It's well known we are in discussions across the region."

Mr Bowen said the group would remain at Christmas Island "for as long as it takes to have them processed and transferred to a third country".

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said the arrival showed people smugglers had not been put off by Labor spin on a people-swap deal with Malaysia.

Mr Bowen could not say where the group would be sent because the government had no deal with Malaysia, PNG, East Timor or anywhere else, Mr Morrison said.

"Having realised that by announcing their panicked deal before it was agreed and operational they had issued an invitation to people smugglers, Minister Bowen is now trying to shut the gate once, in this case, the boats have bolted."

Mr Bowen had not confirmed if Malaysia had been specified as a place asylum seekers could be transferred to under Australian law, Mr Morrison said.

"Unlike on Nauru or Manus Island, Australia will have no role in looking after the welfare of those potentially transferred to Malaysia under their five-for-one people-swap deal.

The immigration minister had an obligation to assure Australians that people will be looked after, Mr Morrison said.

Australian Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said it was not too late for the government to abandon its plans to send asylum seekers to other countries.

"At this stage, it's too early to tell whether there are families, women and children on board this boat," Senator Hanson-Young said.

"But, if indeed there are, what is the government going to do with those people?"

Asked if women and children would be sent to other countries Mr Bowen said "if people think they can get around the arrangements by virtue of the number of people or the type of people they bring to Australia, whether they be children or not, they will not.

The government was dumping Australia's human rights obligations by seeking a people-swapping deal with a country like Malaysia, Senator Hanson-Young said.

"It's not too late.

"They could stop the human swap of vulnerable people."

Human rights group Project SafeCom criticised what it called "the new low of craven politics" in which the world's most vulnerable population group - asylum seekers - were being used for political purposes.

"Today is a day where we ought to be ashamed of Australia as a nation, and ashamed of its attitude to boat arrivals," the group's spokesman Jack Smit said.

news.theage.com.au/.../labor-sticking-to-guns-on-asylum-plan-20110514-1enae.html

Labor policy 'unravelling' as new boat arrives

ABC News Online
Posted Sat May 14, 2011 6:32pm AEST

The Federal Opposition says people smugglers have called the Government's bluff with the arrival of another boat last night, one week after it was announced asylum seekers would now be processed offshore.

The boat carrying 32 asylum seekers and one crew member is the first to arrive since the Government introduced its offshore processing policy, and was intercepted just after midnight off north-western Australia.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen says that after receiving identity checks at Christmas Island the group will be sent to a third country where their asylum claims will be processed.

The Government has been in negotiations with Malaysia and Papua New Guinea over offshore processing, but the agreements have not yet been finalised.

Despite this, Mr Bowen says the asylum seekers intercepted off Scott Reef overnight will be processed offshore, in line with Government policy.

"I'm not going to flag which country these people will be sent to, they'll be held at Christmas Island pending removal to a third country," Mr Bowen said.

But Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison says people smugglers have called the Government's bluff.

"Well the Government has acted recklessly and in a panic to announce a deal that hadn't been concluded which has resulted in boats continuing to arrive," he said.

"The Malaysian deal has not been confirmed and yet we have the Government making it up on the run now.

"You need to have a deal in place, that's what they said only a week ago, and within a week it's already starting to unravel - it's policy making on the run."

He says until Mr Bowen demonstrates that Malaysia can protect asylum seekers the deal will be uncertain.

"When the Coalition had processing centres... in Nauru and Manus Island, we knew who was there and we knew the conditions they were living in and we knew what became of them in terms of their status," he said.

"The Government needs to demonstrate how that process will work in Malaysia."

Mr Bowen says the Government wants to send a clear message to people smugglers and will process all asylum seekers who come by boat offshore, regardless of their age or how many arrive.

"If people think they can get around the arrangements by virtue of the number of people or the type of people they bring to Australia - whether they be children or not - they will not," he said.

"Our resolve is very clear and people can work on the basis that if they come to Australia by boat they will be taken to Malaysia or another country.

"I do know that people are already noticing throughout Indonesia and Malaysia and Pakistan - the places where asylum seekers gather - I know that it is being noticed.

"But I do expect some people will try it on, but that is the reason for the very clear message that the Government is sending today."

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/05/14/3216978.htm

New arrival tests 'tough' boats policy

The Age
Michael Gordon
May 17, 2011

THE interception of a second boat of asylum seekers in 72 hours will put early pressure on the Gillard government's attempt to shut down the people smuggling trade by sending new arrivals to ''the back of the queue'' for processing in countries including Papua New Guinea, Thailand and Malaysia.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen signalled yesterday that the latest boat, carrying 55 passengers and two crew, would be subject to the new policy, with the asylum seekers taken to Christmas Island until they could be sent to another country.

The opposition seized on the latest arrival to declare the government had used up in less than one week more than 10 per cent of the quota it set for sending back asylum seekers.

In return for Malaysia accepting 800 asylum seekers, Australia will accept 4000 refugees whose claims were processed in that country.

''As each new boat arrives since the Prime Minister's panicked announcement of her yet-to-be-completed five-for-one people swap, it further erodes our negotiating position with Malaysia and PNG, who now have us over a barrel,'' opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said last night.

The government argues the policy will smash the people smugglers' business model because they can no longer claim those who pay for passage on their boats will be processed in Australia - and allowed to settle in this country if their claims are found to be genuine.

Mr Bowen claimed on Saturday - after a boat carrying 32 passengers was intercepted - that he thought people were now ''seriously reconsidering their intention to travel to Australia'' in the light of the policy.

But he added that he did expect ''there'll be people smugglers and asylum seekers who test these arrangements''.

Although the United Nations refugee agency had given qualified support to the Malaysian deal, refugee advocates have raised several concerns, including doubts about the promise that those sent to Malaysia will be afforded the promised ''dignity and respect''.

There are also concerns about whether the new arrangements - which are yet to be finalised - will be in breach of Australia's other treaty obligations to those who have suffered from torture and on the rights of the child.

Under the policy, Australia will not take any of those it sends to other countries for processing if their refugee claims are upheld. They will have to be resettled elsewhere.

Mr Bowen has insisted that the government will take a hard line on new arrivals.

http://www.theage.com.au/national/new-arrival-tests-tough-boats-policy-20110516-1epvx.html

Amnesty slams Gillard over poor human rights leadership

Sydney Morning Herald
Tom Reilly
May 14, 2011

THE Labor government has shown a lack of leadership on human rights issues, with discrimination against indigenous communities, asylum seekers and refugees worsening over the past year, Amnesty International says.

The group used the publication of its annual report to criticise the government and highlight areas of concern, including the proportion of indigenous people, especially juveniles, in prison; the failure to introduce a human rights act and the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.

Plans to send asylum seekers to Malaysia, announced last week, were also slammed.

"If Julia Gillard is determined to do a deal with Malaysia to accept these refugees she at least needs to ensure the country signs up to the UN convention that deals with these people," Claire Mallinson, the national director of Amnesty International Australia, said. "Asylum seekers die of disease in detention in Malaysia and we have evidence of people who are fleeing torture being beaten with sticks, including women."

Ms Mallinson said 2010 had been a year of "missed opportunities and backward steps" for the government. While it had introduced a plan to reduce violence against women and children, as well as legislation to ensure the death penalty could not be established in any state or territory, these were "small victories".

"If you are Aboriginal you are still 14 times more likely to be in prison than somebody who isn't and the proportions are even worse in juvenile detention where half of those locked up are indigenous. We are at risk of failing another generation of indigenous people unless we make them a priority," Ms Mallinson said.

Elsewhere, the rise of social media has left corrupt regimes around the world ''looking over their shoulder'', the report says.

www.smh.com.au/.../amnesty-slams-gillard...leadership-20110513-1emdj.html

UN concerned about Malaysian solution

James Massola
The Australian
May 16, 2011 2:20PM

THE UN refugee agency has raised humanitarian concerns about Julia Gillard's proposed asylum-seeker swap deal with Malaysia.

It also says it has played no part in discussions between Australia and Papua New Guinea over the reopening of the Manus Island detention centre.

As Tony Abbott accused Ms Gillard of deliberately undermining Treasurer Wayne Swan by announcing a deal with Malaysia just days before the federal budget, UNHCR regional representative Richard Towle said the agency had not been involved in negotiations with PNG.

Ms Gillard promised in the lead-up to the election last year to build a "regional approach to the processing of asylum-seekers, with the involvement of the UNHCR".

Under the proposed deal announced just before the budget, Australia would send 800 asylum-seekers to Malaysia in exchange for 4000 genuine refugees.

Concerns have been raised by refugee advocates about Malaysia's treatment of asylum-seekers, including occurrences of whipping, inadequate living conditions and deportation.

Speaking to The Australian Online, Mr Towle said the so-called "Malaysian solution" was "broadly in the ambit of the regional cooperation framework".

"However we would like to see important humanitarian and refugee protection safeguards built into the agreement and its implementation," he said.

"Not all bilateral agreements lie within the spirit of the regional cooperation framework (in Bali) signed off at the end of March."

Asked about discussions with PNG over reopening the mothballed Manus Island detention centre, or opening a new centre, Mr Towle said: "We have not been involved in discussions, nor have we been asked to play any specific role".

Mr Towle said any agreement between Malaysia and Australia on refugees should guarantee asylum-seekers would not be forcibly expelled to face persecution in their home countries, allow people to live in safety and dignity, and ensure asylum applicants were processed in a reasonable period of time.

UNHCR's role in Malaysia, which includes registering asylum-seekers, conducting refugee status determinations and processing resettlement claims, would not change if an Australia-Malaysia deal was signed, Mr Towle said.

Speaking in Brisbane today, Mr Abbott said the government was at war with itself, and asked if Ms Gillard had consulted Mr Swan before announcing the Malaysian policy.

"No credible prime minister would have undermined her own Treasurer the way this prime minister had by releasing new border protection policies just a day or so before the budget comes out," he said.

"I really don't know what the PM was trying to do to the Treasurer's budget by releasing her already-failing Malaysian swap-the-boats policy just a couple of days before the budget."

www.theaustralian.com.au/../un-concerned-about-malaysian-solution/story-fn59niix-1226056813698

More boat arrivals sail to back of queue

Sydney Morning Herald
Phillip Coorey
May 17, 2011

The arrival of another boat of asylum seekers has injected fresh urgency into government efforts to finalise the refugee swap deal with Malaysia.

Upon announcing yesterday that a boat carrying 55 asylum seekers had been intercepted off Christmas Island, the Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O'Connor, said they would be detained ''pending removal to another country''.

The 55 will join the 32 people who arrived at the weekend, taking the total to 87 awaiting transfer to Malaysia or elsewhere as soon as an agreement is reached.

The government, which is down in the polls, is also negotiating with Papua New Guinea over reopening the Manus Island detention centre.

The government says that under the deal with Kuala Lumpur, 800 asylum seekers would be sent to ''the back of the queue'' in Malaysia for processing while Australia would take 4000 people already found to be refugees from Malaysia over four years.

Despite announcing the agreement three days before the budget, the government will not say when the deal will be signed and the transfer can begin. The Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, said last night that talks with Malaysia and other nations were ''well advanced''.

The opposition immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, said with 87 people awaiting deportation, more than 10 per cent of the 800 quota had been filled. ''Labor is already borrowing heavily on a deal they have yet to complete,'' he said.

Labor is keen to end the flow of boats which is helping drive down its standing in opinion polls. Yesterday's Herald/Nielsen poll and a separate Newspoll showed Labor continues to be thrashed by the Coalition and Julia Gillard's personal ratings have slumped, eroding any last advantage over Tony Abbott.

The Herald poll showed 58 per cent opposed the Malaysian plan.

On the post-budget hard-sell yesterday, Ms Gillard said the only way out of the slump was hard work and delivering policies such as the carbon price.

''There are inevitably many issues that are intriguing in the moment, but we've got to look beyond those issues and work through those things that are truly momentous, together,'' she said.

There was worry inside the ALP about the flatlining in the polls, but no one was suggesting insurrection.

''No one's panicking but no one's comfortable,'' said a minister.

Another MP said ''the assassins'' who ousted Kevin Rudd had some explaining to do. ''They're just sitting in their office slashing their wrists,'' the MP said of his colleagues.

The Communications Minster, Stephen Conroy, ridiculed the raft of proposed reforms to Labor's internal structure to reinvigorate its membership. The reforms were recommended by party elders John Faulkner, Steve Bracks and Bob Carr, but Senator Conroy said it was ''an exercise in self-indulgence''.

"The government has to be focused on the concerns of the Australian public, not staring at its navel,'' Senator Conroy said.

Mr Abbott said the government had slumped in the polls because it was not listening to people. He questioned the tactic of distracting attention from a crucial budget by announcing the Malaysian plan three days before.

''Plainly the most important thing that any one government does in one year is to set out its blueprint. [It] was completely derailed,'' he said.

http://www.smh.com.au/national/more-boat-arrivals-sail-to-back-of-queue-20110516-1eq08.html

Customs armed and ready for asylum-seeker arrivals

Paige Taylor
The Australian
May 17, 2011 12:00AM

Customs officers armed themselves on Christmas Island yesterday to bring ashore the first asylum-seekers earmarked for deportation under Labor's new policy.

There was unprecedented security for the group of 54 men, women, children and two Indonesian crew, who were ferried from a wooden fishing vessel that had been spotted on Sunday afternoon about 100 nautical miles north of the island.

Interpreters at the jetty were given strict instructions not to tell the asylum-seekers that they were destined for overseas detention before immigration officials read them a prepared statement onshore.

For the first time on the island, Customs' border protection officers wore pistols as they brought the asylum-seekers to the jetty on barges.

They were met by a boosted contingent of immigration officers, detention centre guards and Australian Federal Police and put on buses to an empty compound built by the Howard government after the Tampa crisis in 2001.

In recent years the Bravo compound -- surrounded by two rows of high wire fences -- has held single adult men in transportable cabins and tents. But it is regarded by the Immigration Department as an "alternative place of detention" rather than a detention centre, and therefore it considers it suitable for children.

The compound was checked last week by Australian Federal Police, who have been advising the Immigration Department on how to deal with potential unrest and protests from asylum-seekers subject to the new policy.

There has been widespread publicity about Julia Gillard's announcement on May 7 of a planned asylum-seeker swap with Malaysia and other reports of proposals to send asylum-seekers to Papua New Guinea -- as well as interest from Thailand.

However, the department fears the latest arrivals have been given false expectations by people-smugglers keen to continue selling places on boats.

"Any irregular maritime arrival who arrives after the May 7 announcement will be told they are being detained on Christmas Island pending removal to another country and their claims will not be processed in Australia," a department spokesman said.

Yesterday's arrivals appeared calm. One man was visibly uncomfortable with peeling skin on his face -- apparently sunburn -- and was taken to a waiting van.

Two small children were aboard the first barge of 15 people to come ashore at 3pm local time (6pm AEST), as a call to prayer rang out from the Christmas Island mosque on the foreshore.

www.theaustralian.com.au/.../customs-armed-and-ready-for-arrivals/story-fn59niix-1226057061166

Time's up: latest boat arrivals to be diverted

The Age
Melissa Fyfe
May 15, 2011

THE Gillard government's tougher refugee policy came into full force yesterday, with the Immigration Minister saying the latest boatload of asylum seekers will be refused processing and sent away to a yet-to-be determined country.

The government has flatly rejected the asylum seekers before finalising two of its major new options for refugee processing: the so-called Malaysian ''swap'' and a new assessment centre on Papua New Guinea.

The 33 asylum seekers, picked up early yesterday morning in the Timor Sea, will undergo basic checks and be temporarily held in detention on Christmas Island before removal to a ''third country''.

The boat is the first to arrive in Australian waters since Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced last week she was finalising a deal under which Malaysia would take the next 800 Australia-bound asylum seekers in return for 4000 already-processed refugees waiting for protection in Malaysia.

Last week, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said it was possible asylum seekers could still be processed in Australia before the deal was finalised with Malaysia.

But yesterday he said Australia would not accept any asylum seekers who arrive by boat. ''The people aboard the boat will be processed not for refugee assessment but for removal from Australia.''

Mr Bowen said the asylum seekers, likely to be from Afghanistan and Pakistan, would only have basic processing done on Christmas Island, such as fingerprints, photographs and identity assessment.

It is unclear whether yesterday's arrivals departed for Australia before or after Ms Gillard warned people smugglers and asylum seekers last Saturday not to come.

Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre director David Manne said it appeared the asylum seekers would be incarcerated in a legal limbo with no rights to present their claim for protection.

http://www.theage.com.au/national/times-up-latest-boat-arrivals-to-be-diverted-20110514-1enns.html

PM defends Malaysia deal amid Amnesty criticism

ABC News Online
By Jeff Waters
Posted Fri May 13, 2011 5:19pm AEST

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has responded to a new report which is highly critical of the treatment of asylum seekers in both Malaysia and Australia.

In a release that is bad timing for a government in the throes of striking a new refugee deal with Kuala Lumpur, Amnesty International has singled-out Malaysia for its "epidemic" of caning.

The human rights group's latest annual report warns Australia against going ahead with its plan to send asylum seekers to Malaysia.

It says the Malaysian government has defied an international prohibition on torture by continuing to cane thousands of people for immigration offences and petty crime.

But speaking to the media in Ballarat, Ms Gillard said Australia had sought assurances from the Malaysian government about the treatment of people held in detention.

"We've asked Malaysia to agree that asylum seekers who are taken by us to Malaysia will be treated with dignity and will not be sent back to places of persecution and we've secured that agreement," she said.

Amnesty Australia's national director, Claire Mallinson, said the Federal Government should be mindful of Malaysia's record on torture.

"Any agreement, any deal that the Australian Government is doing with the Malaysian government must involve the Malaysian government ending torture," she said.

Ms Mallinson has criticised the way Malaysia handles immigration detainees.

"Amnesty's report into Malaysia shows that Malaysia is a country where the human rights situation is not a good one, where the detention centres are very overcrowded, and the fact is that caning is epidemic," she said.

The Law Council of Australia has joined the chorus of bodies criticising the Malaysian deal.

The council's president, Alexander Ward, said he had received a letter from the Malaysian Bar Association warning against conditions for refugees in that country.

"[They wrote] to say 'don't send them here, they're not getting proper treatment here anyway, they [the Malaysian government] don't even recognise asylum seekers or refugees'," he said.

Australian detention centres

The conditions in Australia's own immigration detention centres is also criticised in the Amnesty report.

Amnesty says overcrowding in detention centres is a problem and many of them are simply too remote to ensure detainees have proper legal and medical assistance.

"There's not enough medical staff who are experienced in the torture and trauma that people have fled from," Ms Mallison said.

The report also says the Northern Territory intervention racially discriminates against Aborigines.

Ms Mallinson said the group is seriously concerned about the number of Indigenous Australians in prison.

"Prison rates for the Indigenous population are really a national scandal," she said.

"About 2.5 per cent of the population are Indigenous here, but if you look at the prison population, 25 per cent are Indigenous."

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/05/13/3216551.htm

Asylum plan frustrates Christmas Island local

ABC News Online
By Andrew O'Connor
First posted Sun May 15, 2011 5:56am AEST
Updated Sun May 15, 2011 5:57am AEST

Christmas Island residents say they have been left in the dark about a group of asylum seekers who are to be shipped off to foreign detention.

A boat carrying 32 asylum seekers and one crew member was intercepted off Scott Reef on the north-west coast yesterday.

The group will be the first to have their claims for asylum processed offshore under new arrangements being sought by the Federal Government.

The Government has an agreement in-principle with Malaysia to swap 800 asylum seekers for 4,000 refugees and wants Papua New Guinea to re-open its detention facilities.

But Christmas Island resident Paul Maberly says his community has been told virtually nothing.

"It really is just frustrating that we hear about what's happening in our own community on the national news," he said.

Mr Maberly, an outspoken critic of the asylum seeker detention system, also worries how newly-arrived asylum seekers will react to being processed by another country.

"There is the risk that individuals or groups could create a problem," he said.

The asylum seekers are being transferred to the customs vessel Triton and sailing to Christmas Island.

The Triton is expected to arrive at the island within days but it is not clear to which country the asylum seekers will be taken, or when.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/05/15/3217101.htm

Malaysian deal still weeks away

Sydney Morning Herald
Phillip Coorey
May 19, 2011

An agreement with Malaysia in which Australia will swap asylum seekers for refugees is still some weeks away from being formalised, government sources say.

And despite the government saying that all 107 recent arrivals in Australia are being held pending their deportation to another country, the Malaysian Home Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, said it would take only those asylum seekers who arrive after the deal is sealed.

The Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, has confirmed there are more police and security personnel on Christmas Island to deal with unrest when hundreds of asylum seekers are sent away.

Under the scheme, 800 asylum seekers would be sent from Australia to ''the back of the queue'' in Malaysia. In return, Australia would accept, over four years, 4000 people from Malaysia who have already been determined to be refugees.

http://www.smh.com.au/national/malaysian-deal-still-weeks-away-20110518-1et80.html

Bowen accused of bluffing on asylum deal

ABC News Online
By Barbara Miller and staff
First posted Thu May 19, 2011 7:16pm AEST
Updated Thu May 19, 2011 7:43pm AEST

The Federal Opposition has accused the Government of bluffing on the issue of asylum seekers because it will not say where it is planning to send the latest people to arrive on Australian shores.

Earlier this month, the Government agreed on an in-principle refugee swap with Malaysia to resettle 4,000 of their refugees in return for Malaysia accepting 800 asylum seekers.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen insists more than 100 asylum seekers who have arrived since the Government announced the deal with Malaysia will be sent to another country, but he is not saying where.

There are also reports that Malaysia has ruled out taking the asylum seekers because they arrived before the deal was finalised.

Speaking on ABC Radio's The World Today, Mr Bowen was unable to say whether the agreement would apply retrospectively.

"We're in very regular contact with Malaysia; we've obviously been finalising the details; we're in regular contact at the ministerial and officials level," he said.

"I'll be saying more about the implementation of the arrangements with Malaysia when those details are finalised."

Mr Bowen would not confirm whether or not he had even sought clarification from Malaysia on the matter.

Opposition spokesman Scott Morrison says that shows Mr Bowen is bluffing.

"The Minister just can't run around and make statements and make it up as he goes along," he said.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says Mr Bowen's comments are proof the arrangement is on very shaky ground.

"The critical news today is that the Malaysian government will not take boat people until this deal is finalised," he said.

"It's typical of Prime Minister Gillard that in a panic, she went out and announced something that wasn't a done deal.

"It's typical of a government which is all announcement and no delivery; which is all announcement and no detail."

But Prime Minister Julia Gillard has hit back, saying the Malaysian home affairs minister's comments have been misrepresented.

"What he said of course - and it's just simple common sense - is that people wouldn't be taken to Malaysia until the agreement has been entered into - well absolutely, obviously, but that's been misreported today," she said.

Refugee advocates say the uncertainty about where those who have arrived in the interim will be processed is very concerning.

"At the moment the incarceration of these asylum seekers leaves them in a legal black hole, completely uncertain about their future fates," said David Manne, director of the Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre.

ABC Radio's PM tried to contact the Malaysian home affairs minister for comment, but was unsuccessful.

Mr Bowen says he and his Malaysian counterpart will be making further announcements within the coming weeks. In the meantime, asylum seekers who have arrived by boat will continue to be held.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/05/19/3221683.htm

Govt spreads hard line but boats keep coming

Canberra Times
18 May, 2011 07:19 AM

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen says news of Australia's tough new asylum regime has spread to people smugglers, despite the fact three boats have arrived since changes were announced.

Border protection authorities intercepted the third asylum-seeker boat since the Government announced plans for new arrivals to be processed in another country late on Monday.

Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor said the navy patrol boat HMAS Larrakia, operating under the control of Border Protection Command, intercepted the suspected vessel north-west of Ashmore Islands.

He said initial indications suggested there were 20 passengers and one crew member on board.

Those passengers and 87 asylum-seekers from two other recently intercepted boats will be transferred to a third country for processing, but not necessarily to Malaysia, according to Mr Bowen.

He said Australia was continuing negotiations with Malaysia and PNG, while Thailand has expressed an interest in striking a similar deal to Malaysia.

Under that agreement, Australia will send 800 new arrivals to Malaysia for processing, accepting in return 4000 who have been accepted as genuine refugees.

The Opposition said this remained a far better deal for foreign countries and Thailand was joining in because it could see a sucker coming.

The Greens say the Government is resorting to the same appalling tactics as the former Howard government, but Opposition Leader Tony Abbott would be even worse.

Australia and Malaysia announced the tentative deal on May 7 the same day a boat carrying 85 asylum-seekers reached Australian waters.

A week passed with no arrivals, raising hopes the policy change had produced immediate results.

Then two more boats arrived, carrying 32 and 55 asylum-seekers who will now be processed in a third country.

The Government hasn't been able to say when or where.

Mr Bowen said the aim was to make clear to those contemplating a voyage to Australia that asylum claims would not be processed in Australia, even if they were accompanied by children.

''Word spread very quickly about this announcement through Indonesia and Malaysia amongst people smugglers and asylum-seekers,'' he told Melbourne radio.

''I do know it got a lot of attention.'

Mr Bowen said people-smuggling ventures were usually planned in advance and those on the two most recent boats had probably already paid the people smugglers.

He said it might take some time for the message to get through to everyone in Malaysia and Indonesia.

''When people see people being returned to Malaysia, when people see other people being taken offshore to other countries, it will make a huge difference to the number of people willing to get on a boat,'' he said.

Mr Abbott said this was a great deal for foreign countries but a lousy deal for Australia.

''I mean, this idea that they take 800 of ours, we take 4,000 of theirs a terrific deal for Malaysia,'' he said.

''I think that the Thais think 'look, we can see a sucker coming so let's put our hand out for this deal'.''

Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said there needed to be a regional framework to come up with a better plan for managing asylum-seekers.

''But the idea of cutting side deals to get Australia off the hook is not the appropriate way,'' she said.

www.canberratimes.com.au/.../govt-spreads-hard-line-but-boats-keep-coming/2166418.aspx

Stunned debutants likely to challenge

Paige Taylor, Lanai Vasek
The Australian
May 18, 2011 12:00AM

Immigration officials are bracing for a legal challenge on behalf of 54 asylum-seekers earmarked for deportation under Labor's new policy to send them to Malaysia or Papua New Guinea.

Some among the group of mostly Iranian families that arrived on Christmas Island on Monday held their hands over their mouths when an Immigration official told them just hours after they disembarked their claims for asylum would not be processed in Australia.

The decision came as a surprise and there was a sense of disbelief, an Immigration worker who was in the room at the time said.

But the group, which was escorted to the island by the navy on Monday afternoon after being spotted from the air the previous day, did not protest. According to one guard: "They were too tired."

But the Department of Immigration and Citizenship expects questions and even an attempted injunction in coming days as the news sinks in.

Another boatload of asylum-seekers subject to the policy announced on May 7 is expected to arrive today aboard the Customs vessel Triton. The 32 aboard are said to be men from Afghanistan and Pakistan. The first group -- who are being kept separate from others in a compound with two rows of high-wire fencing -- slept for much of yesterday after health checks and questioning that began after the first of them reached the jetty at 3pm on Monday and ended at 3am yesterday.

The department is planning an exodus of children from the island's detention centre as the government seeks to meet its deadline to house the majority in the community by July.

A detention worker said the family compound that holds them would be converted to a reception and processing area for asylum-seekers on the day they land.

The latest figures show just 383 children have been moved into the community since October when Immigration Minister Chris Bowen announced the scheme.

As of last night there were 674 minors in detention facilities across the nation, 244 of whom are on Christmas Island.

The department refused to say if all children on the island would be sent to the mainland.

It is understood charter flights will begin removing scores of children and vulnerable family groups from the island on Friday and Saturday. This follows a flight last week that took 84 to the mainland.

Mr Bowen yesterday said the government was "on track" to meet its deadline. However, at least 338 community beds are still to be found for child-refugees by June 30.

www.theaustralian.com.au/../stunned-debutants-likely-to-challenge/story-fn59niix-1226057823273

Boatpeople to beat Malaysia swap deal

Dennis Shanahan and Paul Maley
The Australian / AAP
May 20, 2011 12:00AM

SOME of the 107 asylum-seekers being held "in limbo" on Christmas Island, and others who arrive before Australia seals a deal with Malaysia to take 800 boatpeople that arrive on our shores, will end up being settled in Australia as refugees.

The Gillard government is telling potential asylum-seekers and people-smugglers that there is no "guarantee" they will end up in Australia and that they will go to the end of a "very, very long queue" in detention camps in Malaysia.

But senior government sources have confirmed some asylum-seekers to be processed in Papua New Guinea would end up in Australia as refugees. Government sources also confirmed there was still some time before the deals with Malaysia to swap 4000 of its refugees for 800 boatpeople and with PNG to process asylum-seekers on Manus Island were completed.

Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor yesterday became the first member of the government to claim the Malaysia announcement was having a deterrent effect among asylum-seekers.

Referring to advice from the Australian Federal Police and Customs and Border Protection, Mr O'Connor told Melbourne radio there had been "a change of behaviour in transit countries about how they operate".

"And that's the advice we're receiving from our counterparts," Mr O'Connor said.

Since Julia Gillard and Immigration Minister Chris Bowen announced their intention on May 7 to sign agreements with Malaysia and PNG to take asylum-seekers, three boats, carrying 107 people, have arrived. Asylum-seekers who arrive at Christmas Island cannot be sent to Malaysia until the agreement is signed.

Negotiations are continuing with the PNG government to re-open the Manus Island detention centre, which was created by the Howard government in 2001 as part of its so-called "Pacific Solution" to stop illegal boat arrivals.

The Australian government is depending on uncertainty about where asylum-seekers who arrive after May 7 will end up to form a deterrent to people-smugglers.

A spokesman for Mr Bowen said last night the latest arrivals on Christmas Island were being detained "pending removal to a third country".

"Advanced negotiations are continuing with both Malaysia and PNG in relation to all arrivals following the 7 May announcement," he said.

"As part of these proposed measures, there is no guarantee that any asylum-seeker arriving by boat will be processed or resettled in Australia."

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said the deals with Malaysia and PNG were unravelling and Mr Bowen "hasn't got an agreement with any country".

"As a result, we are in some sort of policy twilight zone." Mr Morrison said on Sky News.

Tony Abbott said the Prime Minister had "in a panic . . . announced something that wasn't a done deal".

Ms Gillard denied yesterday that the government had announced the proposed deals with Malaysia and PNG prematurely.

"We've worked patiently and methodically with Malaysia since last October, worked in a patient and methodical way," she said.

"We went to Bali and worked with the countries in our region to get a regional framework.

"That regional framework has within it a reference to transfer agreements between two countries."

Mr Bowen brushed off concerns based on comments by Malaysian Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein that a boatload of 32 asylum-seekers who arrived in Australian waters on May 14 would not be accepted by his country. He said the minister had also described the policy as "pioneering".

theaustralian.com.au/../boatpeople-to-beat-malaysia-swap-deal/story-fn59niix-1226059274301

First detainees facing PNG flight as Thailand looks on

Paul Maley and James Madden
The Australian
May 16, 2011 12:00AM

The first boatload of asylum-seekers intercepted after the government announced it would begin deporting boatpeople to foreign countries is likely to be sent to Papua New Guinea.

As Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya expressed an interest over the weekend in emulating Canberra's deal to swap asylum-seekers with Malaysia, there were signs the government's recent announcements were beginning to disrupt the smuggling syndicates.

The Australian understands government officials have been encouraged by the initial impact of the government's plan to transfer the next 800 asylum-seekers to Malaysia, in exchange for 4000 declared refugees from Malaysia.

In the words of one government official, the news had generated "a lot of nervousness" among people-smugglers and would-be asylum-seekers, with Australian officials abroad reporting some boatpeople had begun demanding their money back.

However, while the government has been pleased with the way the announcements have been received, it is bracing for more boat arrivals as smugglers test the new arrangements.

On Saturday, authorities intercepted the first boat load of asylum-seekers to be affected by the changes, which will see them deported to either Malaysia or PNG, with the government increasingly confident Port Moresby will agree to hold a centre catering to between 400 and 600 people.

Julia Gillard yesterday said the 32 people aboard the boat would be removed from Australia.

"The message here to people-smugglers and to asylum-seekers in the pipeline is don't come to Australia expecting to be processed, because you won't be," the Prime Minister said. "You will be held, pending removal."

Ms Gillard did not say where the 32 would be taken.

However, The Australian understands they are likely to be taken to PNG, with asylum-seekers transferred to Kuala Lumpur only after the agreement between Australian and Malaysia has been signed.

At a joint press conference in Bangkok on Saturday with Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, Mr Kasit said other countries in the region would study the refugee swap between Australia and Malaysia. "I think the Australian-Malaysian likely agreement will provide some sort of certainty and also model for others, I think, to study later," he said.

However, refugee lawyer David Manne, whose landmark case against the federal government effectively ended the system of offshore processing begun by the Howard government, said the government was on "very shaky ground" in trying to deport asylum-seekers.

"The core obligation under the refugee convention is to ensure that anyone claiming protection is not expelled to their home country or somewhere else where they could face danger," Mr Manne said.

"And the only way to do that is to examine their claims."

The Department of Immigration yesterday clarified none of the asylum-seekers involved in the torching of Sydney's Villawood detention centre last month had received refugee visas of any kind. Of the 23 men involved in the incident, seven have been charged and remain in Silverwater jail.

The other 16 are being held at detention centres in Sydney and Melbourne.

www.theaustralian.com.au/../first-detainees-facing-png-flight../story-fn59niix-1226056366618

PM backs asylum policy amid Thai interest

ABC Online News
Posted Sun May 15, 2011 4:11pm AEST
Updated Sun May 15, 2011 4:21pm AEST

Prime Minister Julia Gillard reiterated new asylum seekers would not be processed in Australia as Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said the Government looked forward to working with Thailand to fight people smuggling.

The Federal Government has an in-principle deal to send 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia, in return for Australia resettling 4,000 refugees from Malaysia.

Yesterday, in bilateral talks between Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and his Thai counterpart Kasit Piromya, Mr Piromya said Thailand would be interested in considering a similar swap arrangement with Australia.

"I think the agreement between Australia and Malaysia on this particular model based on, I think, five to one ratio is something that the rest of us will be interested to look at," he said.

"I think the Australian Malaysian likely agreement would provide some sort of certainty and also a model for others to study."

A spokesman for Mr Bowen said Thailand had been a strong supporter of efforts to deal with people smuggling and there had been a positive response to the deal throughout the region.

The Government is still negotiating deals with Malaysia and Papua New Guinea to process asylum seekers.

Neither deal has been finalised, but the Government insists the group of asylum seekers that were intercepted north of Broome on Friday night will be processed overseas.

The 32 passengers and one crew member on board were taken to Christmas Island for health and identity checks, pending transfer to a third country.

Ms Gillard told ABC 1's Insiders the Government has a clear course of action.

"I don't think it's any mystery to anybody in Australia that we are in discussions with Malaysia, and I released the statement with the prime minister of Malaysia. We are working with PNG as well," she said.

"We will hold these asylum seekers pending removal.

"The message here to people smugglers and to asylum seekers in the pipeline is don't come to Australia expecting to be processed because you won't be.

"You will be held pending removal."

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/05/15/3217263.htm

Thailand wants refugee swap deal with Australia

ABC Online News
By SE Asia correspondent Zoe Daniel, staff
Posted Sat May 14, 2011 9:10pm AEST

Thailand says it would be interested in striking the same asylum seeker deal with Australia as the one proposed by the Federal Government with Malaysia.

Australia is in negotiations with Malaysia to swap 800 asylum seekers for 4,000 refugees currently living in Malaysia.

Today in bilateral talks between Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and his Thai counterpart Kasit Piromya, Mr Piromya said Thailand would be interested in considering a similar swap arrangement with Australia.

"I think the agreement between Australia and Malaysia on this particular model based on, I think, five to one ratio is something that the rest of us will be interested to look at," he said.

Most refugees in Malaysia have travelled via Thailand from Burma and Mr Rudd says he and Mr Piromya discussed the broader issue of asylum seekers.

"So what we discussed in particular was the ongoing support which our friends in Thailand need to sustain something in the order of 110,000 people spread across nine camps," he said.

The Federal Government says the deal with Malaysia is yet to be finalised, but it says a boat of asylum seekers intercepted on Friday night will be processed offshore.

The boat carrying 32 asylum seekers and one crew member was intercepted off Scott Reef and will be taken to Christmas Island for identity checks before being moved to a third country.

However Immigration Minister Chris Bowen would not confirm what country that is.

"It's well known we've been in discussions with Papua New Guinea. It's well known we are in discussions across the region," he said.

"We have an agreement to enter into a bilateral arrangement with Malaysia.

"I am not going to flag which country these people will be sent to, but they will be held at Christmas Island, pending removal to a third country."

The boat is the first to arrive since the Government introduced its offshore processing policy.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison says its arrival proves that people smugglers have called the Government's bluff.

"Well the Government has acted recklessly and in a panic to announce a deal that hadn't been concluded which has resulted in boats continuing to arrive," he said.

"The Malaysian deal has not been confirmed and yet we have the Government making it up on the run now.

"You need to have a deal in place, that's what they said only a week ago, and within a week it's already starting to unravel - it's policy making on the run."

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/05/14/3217023.htm

Indonesia interested in asylum trade deal

AAP / news.com.au
May 18, 2011 4:09PM

Indonesia says it may be interested in pursuing a deal on asylum seekers similar to the one agreed to between Australia and Malaysia.

The development comes as the federal government continues to face questions on the details on the arrangement with Malaysia, and when the transfers will begin, following the arrival on Monday of a third boat since the deal was announced.

A spokesman for the Indonesian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday said that while no official talks had taken place in terms of a transfer agreement, he would not rule out the possibility of such a deal in the future.

"We are in close contact with Australia at various levels in how we can cooperate in dealing with these issues that affect both our countries," he told AAP.

"Certainly we cannot rule anything out for the future. In the future anything can happen."

Indonesia, along with Malaysia, is the main transit point for asylum seekers heading to Australia by boat.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen on Tuesday evening confirmed that Australia would be interested in a transfer deal with Indonesia.

"We're not in formal discussions about a transfer agreement with Indonesia at the moment because my focus has been on Malaysia," he told the ABC.

"But I do think this shows the potential for the sorts of agreements that could apply across the region and there are other models as well, of course, that we would discuss."

Under the deal announced on May 7, up to 800 new boat arrivals will be relocated to Malaysia for processing, in return for Australia accepting 4000 people who have already been granted refugee status.

Mr Bowen on Tuesday confirmed a similar deal would be discussed with Thailand after it expressed interest following the announcement on the Malaysian agreement.

"We haven't had formal discussions with them about this, but certainly it shows the potential for the sorts of cooperation across the region we can have," he said.

The Indonesian Foreign Ministry would not comment directly on whether it was thought the deal between Australia and Malaysia would be effective in discouraging the people smuggling trade, describing it as a bilateral matter between those two countries.

However, the spokesman said it was a "positive" development.

"In terms of general issues of people smuggling, trafficking in persons, as have been discussed also in the Bali Process, we need to deal with this in a (cooperative) way," he said.

"There is a need for all countries concerned to strengthen their cooperation."

www.news.com.au/../indonesia-interested-in-asylum-trade-deal/story-e6frfku9-1226058378515

Manus Island locals welcome detention centre

ABC News Online
By Liam Fox in Manus Island
First posted Sat May 14, 2011 11:45am AEST
Updated Sat May 14, 2011 11:44am AEST

On Manus Island in Papua New Guinea there is overwhelming support from locals for the Federal Government's mooted reopening of a detention centre for asylum seekers.

The Federal Government is no longer pursuing East Timor as part of its regional solution to build an offshore processing centre for asylum seekers.

Australia has instead asked PNG to house a regional processing centr, and reopening the mothballed Manus Island facility could be one option.

But the Government now appears to be hanging its hopes on Malaysia, after the PNG government announced it was having difficulty reaching a consensus about the proposal.

On Manus Island, most are unaware of the place their home has in the war of words over what to do with asylum seekers arriving in Australian waters.

But they overwhelmingly want to see the centre reopened.

At the market in the provincial capital Lorengau there is an incredible array of fruit and vegetables for sale and you can buy a large lobster for a just few dollars.

People are excited about the prospect of the detention centre being reopened and selling more of their produce.

"I have heard that they want to open it. I'm very happy because when the asylum seekers were here in the first place, they bring some changes to the province," said one vendor.

"For the economic aspect for the people, yeah, it would be good," said another.

Across the road a new hotel is under construction. Owner Ken Kuso already owns a guesthouse and he is licking his lips at the business that could be coming his way.

"I think it's good news for me, when they established the asylum seeker centre in Manus last time, actually I benefited yes, the Australian Government planted a lot of money to this small island community and we really benefited from it," he said.

When the centre opened in 2001 as part of the Howard government's so-called Pacific Solution, it was the biggest thing to have happened on the island in a long time.

The island's two main industries, small scale farming and fishing, suddenly had a big new customer.

An aid package saw new schools built and pot-holed roads resurfaced.

When the centre closed in 2004 the island's economy slumped.

Peter Poiou from the Manus Chamber of Commerce and Industry says its reopening would be a godsend.

"The spin-off from the centre if its reopened will have great impact on the economy of Manus," he said.

"Particularly, to the hospitality industry, hotels, and the guesthouses, and to stores, to local markets, and generally to the people of Manus."

While the debate rages in Australia about the best way to deal with asylum seekers, most Manus islanders just want a life beyond subsistence farming and fishing.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/05/14/3216885.htm


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