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Cambodia resettlement deal for asylum seekers moves closer

Scott Morrison.

Scott Morrison. Photo: Andrew Meares

 
A deal with Cambodia to resettle asylum seekers is moving closer with Scott Morrison declaring that a country's economic capacity is irrelevant to his expansion of a "club" of nations to take refugees.
 
In an exclusive interview with Fairfax Media, Mr Morrison said the government was encouraging countries that were willing to offer resettlement places to expand "permanent solutions" for people seeking asylum in Australia.

"It's not about whether they are poor, it’s about whether they can be safe," Mr Morrison said. "That’s the issue. The [refugee] convention was not designed as an economic advancement program."

Speculation has been growing for weeks about whether Australia will strike a deal to resettle refugees in Cambodia, one of Australia’s poorest regional neighbours, after Mr Morrison and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop independently made trips to the country.

"Without mentioning names, when you have a country that’s willing to be engaged in it, an experienced country that is willing to sponsor it and a third country that is a signatory country like Nauru that is also party to all of this . . . That would seem to be a positive thing and something that should be encouraged," Mr Morrison said.

"I would have thought the point for the UNHCR and the region is to expand the club of countries that are available," he said.

The United States, Canada, Great Britain and Australia are "effectively the club of serious resettling countries and I think often these countries aren't recognised for the role that they are playing", Mr Morrison said.

"If we’re going to limit the protection opportunities only to First World economies then we are effectively committing large numbers of people to life in a fairly uncertain place," he said.

"With less than 1 per cent [of asylum seekers] having a place for resettlement, ultimately it's about providing temporary safe haven."

Mr Morrison said he "looked forward to the day when there is no one in the centres", but would not go into details of the ongoing investigation into the death of asylum seeker Reza Barati, despite new footage showing the violence had escalated considerably 24 hours before his death.

He also dismissed the damning criticism of the United Nations over his government’s turn-back policy, saying he's "not surprised and not concerned".

Representatives from the United Nations publicly voiced their opposition on Tuesday night to the government's hardline boat policy, saying Australia was breaching the refugee convention by returning asylum seekers to Indonesia. Instead, they are calling on Australia to process asylum seekers who reach Australian waters.

UNHCR regional co-ordinator James Lynch said that with millions of people displaced around the world, solutions engineered by single countries alone would only work temporarily.

"If someone arrived in Australian waters, we’d expect as a requirement of the refugee convention that they be allowed to disembark and have access to asylum procedures . . . We’d expect [Australia] to honour their obligations," Mr Lynch said.

Mr Morrison said he was "not fazed" by such remarks.

"It's not for us to disprove the negative. I don't feel the need to disprove the negative about our operations," Mr Morrison said.

"We are a sovereign body and we will protect our borders. We said we would and we are.".

with Michael Bachelard

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157 comments

  • What a good idea. Asylum seeker get new homes, not where they wanted, but where they can start a new life and prosper.

    Commenter
    Kingstondude
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    April 24, 2014, 7:18AM
    • What a great idea - Australia cannot afford to resettle these people so it sends them to a country far poorer with significant human rights and ethnic issues!

      Sounds like the LNP to me.

      Commenter
      Ross
      Location
      MALLABULA
      Date and time
      April 24, 2014, 7:55AM
    • In fact, kingstondude - that is so great an idea it is right up there with that other fantastic LNP idea - "Let's invade Iraq to remove the WMDs that we know don't actually exist!

      Commenter
      Ross
      Location
      MALLABULA
      Date and time
      April 24, 2014, 7:57AM
    • Ï know Kingstondude - it is such a good policy, and so sensible, that we can call it 'putting the ratsak on the table'.

      Commenter
      Ross
      Location
      MALLABULA
      Date and time
      April 24, 2014, 7:58AM
    • [frantically struggling not to roll my eyes]. "Prosper." No disrespect to Cambodia, but the issue is not whether the resettlement country is too poor from the refugees' perspective, it is that the resettlement country is in itself too poor to take on an extra burden when it is surrounded by much wealthier and more stable countries. The people of Cambodia have enough trouble "prospering" at the moment, they have enough trouble coping with some fairly basic quality of life issues, anyone arriving as a refugee will hardly be prospering. Still, out of sight, out of mind, hey?

      Commenter
      Rob
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      April 24, 2014, 8:01AM
    • I was im Cambodia last year. The young people I spoke with had options, stay and be a poor farm hand, work in a tourist town for very little or learn english and leave. Cambodia is poor, corrupt and is far from prosperous.

      Commenter
      Phelim
      Date and time
      April 24, 2014, 8:06AM
    • Ross, looks like your 'Start The Boats' campaign might be soon hitting another snag Ross,
      lack of customers.

      Commenter
      SteveH.
      Date and time
      April 24, 2014, 8:30AM
    • Do you They might be better off in PNG than Cambodia? They could have gone to Turkey. Why India is a signatory to UN conventions and has a large Tamil population. Yet they want to MIGRATE to Australia. Asylum seekers are migrants, refugees are those who do not have the resources to get here. That's why they are in Turkish and Syrian Camps. Those who support asylum seekers over refugees, would prefer a young middle class wannabe architect - martial artist than some-one who through no fault of their own, has been stripped of the ability to survive and support themselves.

      Commenter
      Kingstondude
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      April 24, 2014, 8:43AM
    • We are constantly being told that the asylum seekers' own wealth (paying very big money to criminal smugglers, designer clothes, cutting edge technology etc) is not an issue, and that rich people become refugees etc. So the money they command will be good for the Cambodian economy. Win-win.

      A friend is married to a Cambodian and lives there without any hassles. Asylum seekers are supposedly keen for new opportunities so it will be fine for them, too.

      Australia could then take more bona fide refugees from camps in Africa and Asia who are poor and assist them with resources to resettle here. Win-win.

      And @ Rob,

      It is the refugees in camps who have been forever out of sight, out of mind to those here in favour of asylum seekers arriving via disposing of their documents and expecting a red carpet resettlement on their own terms.

      It is time that situation was redressed and refugees in camps are treated like equal members of the human race.

      Commenter
      Astor
      Date and time
      April 24, 2014, 8:57AM
    • @Phelim

      The answer to poverty, corruption and poor economic prospects is not "to learn English and leave" to join an ethnic enclave in another country. The answer is to gain education, technical skills and administrative ability and stay to build a better future for your own kith and kin in your own country.

      Fifty years ago South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, China, India and Botswana were poor and corrupt and had little economic activity other than subsistence farming. In South Korea's case, they also had massive war damage to contend with. What a difference fifty years can make when people stay and patriotically undertake the process of dragging themselves into "developed nation" status.

      I think it is very selfish for western nations to recruit, or accept, skilled migrants from under-developed countries. Draining off their best and brightest just exacerbates the problems of under-developed countries.

      Cambodia, like PNG, is a country with much potential. If the detainees on Mannus and Nauru really are seeking shelter from persecution and are hard-working and highly skilled (like the unfortunate Mr Berati who was an architect) then these countries offer a great opportunity for them to really flourish. They should grasp such opportunities with both hands. Similarly Cambodians should stay at home and build a prosperous nation as, for example, the Malaysians and Botswanans have done.

      Commenter
      Jack Richards
      Location
      Snowy Mountains
      Date and time
      April 24, 2014, 9:01AM

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