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2011 Media Release: Commission raises concerns about sending asylum seekers to Malaysia

Asylum Asylum Seekers and Refugees

The Australian Human Rights Commission recognises the need for regional and international cooperation on asylum seekers and supports the resettling in Australia of an increased number of refugees. 

But Commission President Catherine Branson QC said the Commission had serious concerns about sending people who claim asylum in Australia to Malaysia for processing. 

“Malaysia is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention which increases the risk that those people who are transferred to Malaysia could be returned to danger,” Ms Branson said.

“The Commission is concerned about the treatment asylum seekers will receive in Malaysia, including whether those transferred will be detained, whether they will be able to work to support themselves and their accompanying family members, and whether children will be able to attend school.”

Ms Branson said reputable non-government organisations, including Amnesty International, have reported that conditions for asylum seekers are very poor in Malaysia.

“The Commission would also like an assurance that timely resettlement options will be available for those people transferred to Malaysia if they are found to be refugees,” Ms Branson said.

“Punishing asylum seekers is not the answer to addressing people smuggling.”

Ms Branson said the Commission had opposed mandatory detention for many years because it breached Australia’s international human rights obligations.

“By international standards, Australia receives a relatively small number of asylum-seekers. The vast majority of asylum seekers should be able to live in the community while their claims for asylum are processed,” she said.

Ms Branson said that instead of re-establishing third country processing, the Government should introduce community-based alternatives to mandatory detention.

“Australia has an obligation to ensure that people seeking asylum in our country are not returned to a situation where they face persecution.

“Sending asylum seekers to a third country for processing increases this risk.”

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Media contact: Louise McDermott (02) 9284 9851 or 0419 258 597