Australia is taking a tough new stand on asylum seekers by announcing that those arriving by boat without a visa will never be allowed to settle in the country. In a joint media release Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Attorney General Mark Dreyfus and Immigration Minister Tony Burke declared: ‘Asylum seekers who come here by boat without a visa will never be settled in Australia’.
Australia has signed a new agreement with Papua New Guinea, called the Regional Settlement Arrangement, which means that unauthorised arrivals will be sent to Papua New Guinea for assessment and if found to be a refugee will be settled there. ‘Arriving in Australia by boat will no longer mean settlement in Australia. Australians have had enough of seeing people drowning in the waters to our north. Our country has had enough of people smugglers exploiting asylum seekers and seeing them drown on the high seas,’ the joint statement said.
‘We are sick of watching our servicemen and women risking their lives in rescues in dangerous conditions on the high seas. Regional processing arrangements in Papua New Guinea will be significantly expanded and people will be sent to Manus Island as soon as health checks are complete and appropriate accommodation is identified,’ it added.
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The new arrangement means that PNG officials will assess claims on Manus Island where the facilities will be expanded and there will be no cap on the number of people who can be transferred to Papua New Guinea. ‘The Australian Government, in partnership with the PNG Government, will support settlement services for those with refugee status, as safe and appropriate accommodation and services are identified. We are a compassionate nation and we will continue to deliver a strong humanitarian programme,’ the statement continued. ‘There is nothing compassionate about criminal operations which see children and families drowning at sea. Access to our humanitarian programme must be through the international organisations which resettle people around the world, not through criminal operators who have pushed people onto unseaworthy vessels with tragic consequences’.
The aim is to crackdown on people smugglers who charge people huge amounts of money with the promise of a new life in Australia ‘The new arrangements will allow Australia to help more people who are genuinely in need and help prevent people smugglers from abusing our system. The people smugglers themselves are constantly changing the way they operate and we need to be flexible enough to anticipate and match their actions to avoid the terrible consequences of this trade,’ the statement explained. ‘No doubt there will be some people smugglers who now encourage asylum seekers to test our resolve. Be in no doubt. If people are paying thousands and thousands of dollars to a people smuggler they are buying a ticket to a country other than Australia,’ it concluded.