Opponents of the Gillard government’s so-called Malaysian solution need to think again, writes John Menadue and Arja Keski-Nummi in The Age here. They look back at the agreement, the opportunities it offers for steering us on a different course and why Australia needs to work constructively with its neighbours.
“Whether countries in the region are parties to the refugee convention or not, they have been loath to recognise that they have asylum seekers and refugees on their soil. They have tended to label refugees as migrants or illegals. So it is with China, a signatory to the convention, but which regularly returns people fleeing from North Korea. Another signatory, Papua New Guinea, returns Irian Jayan refugees to Indonesia.
The focus on whether a country is or is not a signatory to the refugee convention is a political smokescreen designed to confuse. It implies that being a signatory means a country has in place a robust and effective protection system and that it does not return people to danger. But the two examples above suggest otherwise.
The real issue we should be concentrating on is how best to support transit countries such as Malaysia to develop their own laws and policies on effective asylum and refugee protection and to create a system to assess the refugee claims of people in their territory.”