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Tuesday 22 Aug 2017 | 22:55 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 22 Aug 2017 | 22:55 | SYDNEY

Solving the asylum seeker problem

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9 May 2011 14:29

On Saturday came news of an agreement between Australia and Malaysia for processing asylum seekers:

Malaysia has agreed to take up to 800 asylum seekers and their claims will be processed in Malaysia by the United Nations. In return Australia has agreed to take 4,000 genuine refugees who have had their claims assessed in Malaysia.

This is a significant, albeit small, step towards 'solving' the problem of asylum seekers. And I use that word deliberately.

While people will always seek to move from poor, unstable countries to stable and rich ones, Australia's politicians and its people have one over-riding desire: that this occurs in a controlled fashion. This is not just a legal principle of sovereignty, but a humanitarian one too: ensuring people don't cross the dangerous waters between Southeast Asia and Australia in unseaworthy vessels.

As documented in Michael Wesley's book 'The Howard Paradox', Australian governments since early 2002 have tried to promote the idea that people smuggling is a regional problem. The recent Bali Process and ASEAN agreements, along with this bilateral deal with Malaysia, are clear signs of growing regional agreement.

This weekend's deal seems a one-off, but the ideal for Australia — no boats make the journey to Australian shores, and in return, Australia takes a higher level of processed asylum seekers — is beginning to take shape. 

Photo by Flickr user kairoinfo4u.

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