Malaysia still keen on asylum swap, says Australia
MELBOURNE, Sept 11 — Foreign Minister Senator Bob Carr says Malaysia remains “very, very keen” to reach an agreement over processing asylum seekers.
“Malaysia is supportive and they want to strike a deal with Australia, and we welcome that. We welcome their co-operative approach,” he told ABC radio today.
“What has stopped that happening is (opposition leader) Tony Abbott blocking that in Parliament.”
In a hung Parliament, the Australian government needs opposition support to pass the bill to enable the Malaysian deal to go ahead.
In the deal, Australia will send boat people to Malaysia for processing while Australia will accept 5,000 genuine refugees now living in Malaysia.
Carr (picture) said, without agreement with Malaysia, Australia was stuck with a “less-than-full arrangement” with Indonesia.
Offshore processing was absolutely necessary and, according to one opinion poll, was even backed by 40 per cent of Green supporters, he said.
“We have got to make offshore processing work. It is the more humane alternative here.
“As unsatisfactory as you can say the arrangements with Nauru and PNG are, they are a long way more attentive to the humanitarian needs than the alternative,” he added.
The Australian government is striving to revive its people-swap deal with Malaysia, amid concerns that Nauru, which will receive its first asylum-seekers by the end of the week, risks being swamped by a wave of new arrivals from Indonesia.
As Immigration Minister Chris Bowen officially reactivated Nauru as an offshore processing centre, and Indonesian authorities warned they were being overwhelmed by the influx of Australian-bound asylum-seekers, the government confirmed talks with Malaysia were continuing.
As the latest boat to be intercepted Monday night took the number of arrivals since an offshore processing deal was announced a month ago, to 2,150, more than the planned capacity of Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island, the opposition has demanded the Australian government reinstate two key elements of its Pacific Solution: temporary protection visas and towing back vessels where safe.
“We have been in contact with our Malaysia counterparts at various levels,” Bowen is quoted by The Australian newspaper, as saying.
“As publicly commented, the two prime ministers (of Malaysia and Australia) have spoken, I’ve been in contact with my ministerial counterpart, and there has been departmental-level contact,” he said. — Bernama