‘Malaysia will have the right to veto any asylum seekers Australia wishes to relocate there under the terms of the refugee agreement signed in Kuala Lumpur this afternoon.
The long-awaited swap deal, first announced by Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Immigration Minister Chris Bowen nearly three months ago, means Australia will send 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia and accept 4,000 verified refugees in return.It is understood the agreement document says Australia will pay for all costs associated with deal including transport, welfare, health and education. That provision addresses concerns held by Australian officials that the 80,000 asylum seekers already in Malaysia do not have access to health and education services.
The document says asylum seekers will be treated with “dignity and respect” and “human rights standards”, although it does not spell out if the standards will be in accordance with UN refugee conventions.
Refugee activists have warned asylum seekers face caning and other rights abuses in Malaysia should they be in breach of local laws. It has also been reported that Malaysian police will have the authority to force asylum seekers off the aircraft that carry them to Kuala Lumpur.
Management and funding of the deal will be administered by a joint Australia-Malaysia committee and an advisory group from the UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration will oversee the program. The deal was signed at 2.30pm (AEST) between Mr Bowen and Malaysian home minister Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein.’