By Rebekah Ison, Phoebe Baker
The Refugee Council of Australia is concerned with the Gillard Government’s asylum seeker transfer deal with Malaysia.
The Council is also worried the Australian Government is failing to acknowledge Malaysia’s historically poor treatment of asylum seekers.
The Council says promises from the Malaysian Government that asylum seekers would be processed quickly are impossible to verify, but agree with the idea of a regional solution.
However Council spokeswoman Sophie Peer said no deals should be made with countries refusing to abide by UN conventions on refugees.
“Malaysia is not a signatory to the refugee convention, Australia is and it’s shirking its own responsibilities in a deal like this,” she said.
Papua New Guinea is a signatory of the convention, but some say a PNG transfer deal is barely an alternative.
Peter Jones from the ACT refugee committee said PNG’s asylum seeker history is far from perfect, despite being a signatory of the UN convention.
“The key question is concretely what conditions are refugees kept in,” he said.
“We know that Manus Island, when it was operating, was appalling from a human rights perspective.”
Ms Peer said regardless of the nation, offshore processing is against UN policy and may gain criticism from the international community.
“Australia must process those people,” she said.
“They must do it quickly and humanely, and we must do it in our own country and not ship people off to another country to deal with it.”