Nauru not the solution: Malaysia
Tom Allard, Kuala Lumpur
September 16, 2011
Malaysian minister Hishammuddin Hussein. Photo: Rahman Roslan
THE Coalition's proposal to send asylum seekers to Nauru is highly unlikely to stop human traffickers sending boats to Australia, according to Malaysia's Home Affairs Minister, Hishammuddin Hussein.
In an interview with The Age, Mr Hishammuddin said Malaysia remained strongly committed to the refugee exchange with Australia.
He also vowed that any asylum seekers Australia sent to Malaysia under the plan would not be abused and that Malaysia was working to improve the treatment of refugees and illegal workers in the country.
Mr Hishammuddin's comments are the first by the Malaysian government since the High Court rejected the proposed deal under which Australia would accepted 4000 genuine refugees from Malaysia and transferred the 800 people who arrived in Australia by boat. It comes as the Gillard government prepares legislation to amend the Migration Act to overcome the ruling and pave the way for offshore processing in the hope of stopping asylum seekers taking boats.
The opposition has yet to decide whether it will support the bill, but Mr Hishammuddin said its plan to send asylum seekers to Nauru was flawed because the remote Pacific island was not a transit country for asylum seekers like Malaysia and, as such, it would not deter people smugglers. ''Can you help me that the Nauru solution is the right solution? That people won't see Malaysia as a transit point on the way to the Nauru solution, and then on to Australia and New Zealand?'' he said.
The opposition and refugee advocates have slammed Malaysia's human rights record because Malaysia is not a signatory to the United Nations convention on refugees and has detained illegal immigrants and, in some cases, caned them.
However, an understanding with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for the past two years means refugees in Malaysia should live free from detention and caning. Malaysia has taken steps in recent years to address such concerns and overnight its Prime Minister, Najib Razak, is expected to flag the dismantling of its 40-year-old Internal Security Act that allows indefinite detention without trial.
Meanwhile, in Australia yesterday, Greens leader Bob Brown came face to face with the bureaucratic ''turkeys'' he condemned last week, to discuss claims made after a confidential media briefing about asylum seekers.
Senator Brown met Andrew Metcalfe, who confirmed that at the briefing, the issue of asylum seekers arriving in Europe had come up. But Mr Metcalfe denied he had linked this to riots.
And in a letter to The Age, the legal team that sank the Malaysian ''people-swap'' plan has defended the man who advised the Gillard government on the court challenge.
With MICHELLE GRATTAN, MICHAEL GORDON
Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/national/nauru-not-the-solution-malaysia-20110915-1kby9.html#ixzz1YFPPcZ00