Australia pushes asylum policies despite rights outcry

2014-01-24 09:21
Sri Lankan asylum-seekers sit on their Australia-bound boat in the Mentawai island group in West Sumatra. (File, AFP)

Sri Lankan asylum-seekers sit on their Australia-bound boat in the Mentawai island group in West Sumatra. (File, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Sydney - Australia said on Friday that asylum-seeker arrivals had dropped to their lowest level in almost five years despite an outcry over human rights violations committed on pacific island camps where refugees are processed.

Canberra's military-run Operation Sovereign Borders policy, which sees asylum-seeker boats turned back when it is safe to do so, has angered Indonesia due to several incursions, despite an official apology.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said that no would-be refugees had arrived in Australia by boat for 36 days - the longest stretch without a vessel in almost five years.

"This is the longest period of no illegal boat arrivals since March of 2009," Morrison said in a statement.

Under new Prime Minister Tony Abbott's punitive anti people-smuggling policy, asylum-seekers arriving by boat are sent to Pacific island camps for processing with no chance of settlement in Australia.

Human rights violations

Independent Australian journalist, Antony Loewenstein, in a Guardian column earlier this month, has called for UN sanctions against Australia for its cruelty towards refugees.

According to earlier reports by the United Nations refugee agency “asylum-seekers transferred from Australia to Pacific Island processing centres...are living in arbitrary detention and harsh physical conditions that do not meet international standards”.

The Australian navy has been accused of mistreating asylum-seekers onboard a vessel which was pushed back to Indonesia, allegations the government has rejected.

The ABC has reported claims that 10 asylum-seekers had required medical treatment, including seven who had burns on their hands after being instructed to hold onto a hot pipe on their ship's engine.

Asylum-seekers arriving on unauthorised boats in Australia, often via Indonesia, are a sensitive issue for both sides, and Canberra's revelations of several incursions into Indonesian waters has angered in Jakarta.

Indonesia has demanded Australia suspend its maritime asylum-seeker operations until they can be further clarified, and has also pledged to step up navy patrols in its southern maritime borders.

Asked about the situation in Davos, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa described Australia's policy as "quite unhelpful".

"I have said in the past that this can be a slippery slope. That's why we feel that it will be best if we all take stock of where we are just now and ensure that things don't get out of hand," he said in comments reported by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Morrison said Australia would continue to work with "any and all partners, especially within our region to defeat the people smugglers and to continue to keep them informed of our own efforts and activities".

The minister also commended all Australian personnel involved in Operation Sovereign Borders for their "professional and dedicated efforts".

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
Read more on:    davos  |  tony abbott  |  australia  |  indonesia  |  human rights publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Rugby World Cup 2015

All the action from the 2015 RWC, including live coverage of all 48 matches, breaking news, fixtures, results, logs - and much more!


Rugby World Cup 2015

VIDEO: 5 scintillating RWC tries from the weekend
World Cup 'curse' talk annoys Cameron
Meyer taking no chances
Butch happy with ‘best possible’ Bok side
Traffic Alerts

Are you burning the candle at both ends? Listen to your body and your emotional reactions. Know when to slow down or stop. It is more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.