Jul 26, 2011

Welcome to the Malaysian Solution

Crikey media wrap: The government yesterday announced the details of its Malaysian Solution policy, a plan it hopes will diminish the number of asylum seekers arriving on our coastlines by boat.

Amber Jamieson — Freelance journalist in New York

Amber Jamieson

Freelance journalist in New York

Welcome to a new chapter in Australia's immigration policy. The government yesterday announced the details of its Malaysian Solution policy, a plan it hopes will diminish the number of asylum seekers arriving on our coastlines by boat. Essentially, it's a swap deal: Malaysia accepts 800 "boat people" from Australia, Australia takes 4,000 "genuine refugees" from Malaysia and resettles them into the community. The next 800 asylum seekers to arrive by boat in Australia will be flown to Malaysia within 72 hours. There, the Australian government will pay for their basic living expenses and maintain responsibility for the asylum seekers for as long as they are in Malaysia. Malaysia agreed to allow these arrivals to work, a right not extended to other asylum seekers in Malaysia. The plan is to resettle these asylum seekers in a third country. Australia will cover all costs of the planned four-year deal, with the total price tag currently estimated at $296 million -- a cost of $54,000 to $95,000 per person, notes The Daily Telegraph. Children, pregnant women, the sick, elderly and unaccompanied minors who arrive by boat in Australia could all be sent to Malaysia. "There is no blanket exemption," said Gillard, although exceptional circumstances would be examined on a case-by-case basis. Originally Julia Gillard declared that all boat arrivals who had reached Australian shores since the Malaysian Solution was first announced would be sent to Malaysia once the details were finalised. To the sharp relief of over 500 recently arrived asylum seekers on Christmas Island, Gillard backed down from that decision. When the news reached Christmas Island "loud music and cries of joy were heard at two detention camps," reports Nick Butterly and Andrew Tillett in The West Australian. The main focus on the deal is to stop people smugglers, says Malaysian Home Affairs Minister Dato Seri Hishammuddin bin Tun Hussein, who told a joint press conference with Australia's immigration minister Chris Bowen "the targets, and the people we really want to send a clear message [to] are the syndicates who are profiting on innocent people". The Greens are unimpressed, with a statement from immigration spokesperson Sarah Hanson-Young declaring "Australians should not be fooled by the government's insistence that this impending arrangement will protect the rights of 800 vulnerable people". "Is Malaysia going to be giving the basic bottom line guarantees of protection -- such as non-refoulement, freedom from arbitrary detention, physical punishment, the right to work and access to health and education -- to everyone when there have been no changes in its domestic laws?" asks Hanson-Young. "It seems unlikely these bottom line guarantees will be met if the UNHCR has not signed the deal." The UNHCR will monitor the Malaysian policy and witnessed the signing of the deal. This policy might stop the boats but it won't stop Gillard getting voted out at the next election, says Andrew Probyn from The West Australian:
"It's draconian, tough and hard-line, with more than an echo of the Howard government's Pacific Solution... But while an ability to strike agreements has helped the Prime Minister hold her Government together, it is not going to be enough for Ms Gillard. If she is going to save Labor from oblivion at the next election she must somehow translate her deal-making skills into winning over a broader constituency: the voters."
It's a risky policy for Gillard, since more boat people than the allocated 800 could arrive in Oz or the ones sent to Malasyia could have their human rights violated, notes Michelle Grattan in The Age:
"Much will depend on how the arrangements for oversight -- involving both countries and the UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration -- work in practice. While there are many dangers and question marks, if the deal works out as both countries hope the Gillard government stands to neutralise one of the opposition's most potent issues."
The Australian government is now involved in the trade of humans yet it's not going to stop the boats coming, declares the Herald Sun editorial:
"The swap of 800 asylum seekers from Australia for 4000 confirmed refugees from Malaysia creates a number of damning and offensive precedents, while doing little to resolve the plight of the thousands who fall victim to the people smugglers."
Today just signals the start of the next four years in asylum seeker policy.

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6 thoughts on “Welcome to the Malaysian Solution

  1. Andrew McIntosh

    The irony is this wont appeal to the very hard-heart “stop the boats” crowd in the electorate (and the media) that Labor want to appeal to with this. The xenophobia runs too deeply, and given what the media like to call “Labor’s inability to sell itself” (ie the media’s inability to report fully and objectively) it will never be absorbed fully by anyone.

    If this government had any backbone it would allow refugees to have their claims processed while remaining in the community at large, instead of any tax-sucking detention, and to Hell with the whinging of the bigots. It might not get them votes at first but at least they’d stand for something – which, in the end, would get them votes.

  2. Julie Storry

    i am in favour of the Malaysian solution, but more in favour of asylum seekers living within OUR community whilst their claims are assessed. I think that those who come by boat show the level of grit and determination that Australians would normally appreciate.

    So why am I in favour of the Malaysian solution? How can I reconcile the two opposing concepts? The concept of regional cooperation appeals. Decreasing the temperature of the argument appeals.

    It is complex. I would like to see more comparisons with ‘overstayers’ who come by legal visa. The Tele is running with this story today, and the comments are vituperative, to say the least.

    This entire area is a quagmire, and beat up by Mr Abbott to a disquieting degree. HOwever, he only used the ingrained bigotry of the people.

  3. ronin8317

    ‘Boat people’ is an emotional issue, and goes beyond our acceptance of refugees. Refugee who comes by plane don’t attract the same level of scorn. You cannot force people to become compassionate, and opinion polls after opinion polls have shown that the ‘boat people’ is wedge issue for the ALP. The ALP have never forgive the boat refugees for Tampa, and the “Malaysian Solution” is harsher than the “Pacific Solution”. It’s call payback.

    As to the cost, it would be a lot cheaper if the deal is made with East Timor or PNG, under a ‘refugee for worker’ swap program. It is a sign of the government’s incompetence that they can only make a deal with Malaysia. With luck, the 800 slot will never be filled. As the ship heading for NZ have shown, it’s already working.

    On a side note, at around 10,000K per person, a mining company can destroy the ALP by paying the people smuggler to send 800 people by boat to Australia. The 8 million will be cheaper than their anti-carbon tax advertising campaign!!

  4. GocomSys

    Please, please stop quoting from totally discredited rags like the DAILY TELEGRAPH and HERALD SUN and be extremely cautious with News corpse’s AUSTRALIAN! This would be very much appreciated!

    Let’s give the new policy a chance! Keep monitoring it! Modify it if necessary. In the meantime please stop the ongoing moronic media and LNP chatter. It isn’t helpful!

  5. mick j

    If I were an unfortunate person fron a third world country I too would look at a place like Australia and work out some way to get there, especially if I thought that I could jam my foot in the door and gain entry. I don’t think that any one of us would not do the same to escape poverty, war and persecution.

    One of the things that Australians never consider in this whole debate is that the people who arrive by boat (or plane) are in part responsible for all of the bad conditions of their homeland and THEY need to try and fix it. Escaping to another land may be convenient but why should other nations welcome uninvited arrivals when these peopel cost our nation money, do not (in many cases) want to work as we have an overgenerous welfare system which does not require anyone to work, and as is currently occurring cause social tensions because some of the new arrivals want to set up a country within a country complete with their own laws and customs.

    What boat people and others who show up in Australia need to do is to work on changing their homeland so that it becomes the nation which they require. Bbad governments can be changed. Poverty can be reduced by prudent management and restricting population sizes so that sustainability becomes viable.

    Australia is a soft touch in the world we live in. I mean where could you come uninvited, have a lawyer assigned free of charge to put your case, be provided with food, clothing, phone and other luxuries and then demand to stay, protest, burn down your free accommodation and have a whole raft of do gooders worship your apparent ‘rights’.

    Many Australians are not happy with how successive governments are handling this issue and expect their political leaders to protect our borders. If not then simply build a bridge and throw away the key.

    I am of the opinion that the Malaysia Solution will not work. It will not take very long to work out that after the magic number of 800 is reached then it is game on again as Malaysia has already indicated that it will only take 800. Having said that the self interest groups who are already here and the do gooders may yet scuttle even this process. THAT IS WHY WE NEED A STRONG GOVERNMENT TO PUT AN END TO THE ONGOING DEBACLE.

  6. Peter Ormonde

    I wonder how the 800 men women and kids will be shipped out … smuggled off in blacked out buses to remote airports? … herded by armed federal coppers and dogs onto jumbos at Darwin? Will they be handcuffed? Will it be televised? Now there’s a deterrent.
    Who thinks this looks like a “solution”?
    Who thinks this stuff up?

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