The Australian government has announced that all asylum seekers arriving by boat will be refused entry and sent to Papua New Guinea.
Australia has been experiencing a sharp increase in the number of refugee boats arriving on its shores from Indonesia. Labour Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s strong stance on the issue comes just weeks before Australian elections are due.
At a news conference alongside Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, Rudd explained: “Our governments intend to make sure that the message is delivered loud and clear to people-smuggling networks around the world and those criminal elements within Australia who may be supporting them, that the hopes that they offer their customers for the future are nothing but false hopes.”
Canberra will fund expansion of detention centres in Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island as part of the agreement.
Amnesty International has criticised the new plan. “Mark this day in history as the day Australia decided to turn its back on the world’s most vulnerable people, closed the door and threw away the key,” said Amnesty’s regional refugee coordinator Graeme McGregor.