By MAMAMIA NEWS
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has announced crucial and significant changes to Australia’s border protection policy.
Under new rules, any person arriving in Australia by boat and seeking asylum will immediately be sent to Papua New Guinea for processing and resettlement.
This means that even if an asylum seeker who attempts to reach Australia by boat, is proven to be a refugee under the UN Convention, they will not be permitted to start a new life in this country.
The announcement was made by Prime Minister Rudd and his Immigration Minister Tony Burke and Attorney General Mark Dreyfus today. The Australian Ministers were joined by representatives of the Papua New Guinean Government, including Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.
Mr Rudd said:
”As of today asylum seekers who come here by boat without a visa will never be settled in Australia.”
”Australians have had enough of seeing people drowning in the waters to our north.”
”Our country has had enough of people smugglers exploiting asylum seekers and seeing them drown on the high seas.”
“This is to ensure that the message to people smugglers is made loud and clear that the hopes they sell to their customers is nothing but false hope.”
“Any asylum-seeker will have no chance of being resettled in Australia.”
The Prime Minister also announced an upcoming international conference to consider how the people smuggling trade can be further disrupted.
These new arrangements will see an expansion of the current regional processing arrangements in Papua New Guinea, with initial health assessments to be conducted by PNG officials in Australia’s facilities on Manus Island.
In return for Papua New Guinea’s cooperation, Australia will pay a 50 per cent share of their university sector reforms. Mr Rudd has not yet spoke about what the budgetary implications of this will be.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is yet to respond to the Government’s changed position on the asylum seeker issue.
A spokesperson for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre has accused Australia of ‘outsourcing’ its responsibilities under the Refugee Convention. Papua New Guinea is a signatory to that Convention.
Here is some of the initial reaction to the policy change from commentators on social media.