Australia to push on with Malaysia refugee swap

Australian PM said she would alter legislation in response to a HC ruling blocking offshore transfers.

Canberra: Australia said on Monday it will press ahead with plans to ship hundreds of asylum-seekers to Malaysia by altering legislation in response to a High Court ruling blocking offshore transfers.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said she would seek to change the Migration Act to allow the arrangement after the High Court last month stopped the transfer of up to 800 asylum-seekers to Malaysia by ruling the proposal invalid.

"We are determined to pursue the arrangement we have made with Malaysia," Gillard told a press conference.

The Prime Minister said the amendments would be broad, but would allow for asylum-seekers to be sent to Malaysia and to be processed at another centre in Papua New Guinea.

"The amendments we will bring to the Parliament will be broad amendments which will restore to executive government the ability to make the arrangements that it sees fit for the transfer and processing of asylum seekers in third countries," Gillard said.

Australia is pushing for a regional solution to stop people-smugglers bringing asylum-seekers into its waters and believes that transferring boatpeople to Malaysia for processing would act as a deterrent.

"That is why Malaysia... was the best option for smashing the people smugglers` business model. It remains the best option," Gillard said.

Rights activists have criticised the so-called Malaysia Solution, accusing Australia of offloading its obligations to refugees and sending vulnerable people to a country that is not a signatory to the UN convention for refugees.

But Australia, which has previously sent asylum-seekers to Papua New Guinea and the tiny Pacific state of Nauru, had argued cracking down on people-smuggling required a regional solution.

Canberra has also committed to accepting 4,000 registered refugees from Malaysia for resettlement over four years as part of the deal.

The High Court last month stopped the transfer of the first group to Malaysia after it ruled that the government was unable to send them to countries that were not legally bound to adequately protect them.

Bureau Report

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