Australia Says No ‘Stepping Back’ From Asylum Policy

Australian Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Scott Morrison speaks on the new federal government's Operation Sovereign Borders policy during a press conference in Sydney on September 23, 2013 promising a tougher approach on asylum-seekers arriving by sea as part of the government's promise to 'stop the boats.' (AFP Photo)

Australian Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Scott Morrison speaks on the new federal government’s Operation Sovereign Borders policy during a press conference in Sydney on September 23, 2013 promising a tougher approach on asylum-seekers arriving by sea as part of the government’s promise to ‘stop the boats.’ (AFP Photo)

Sydney. Australia said Friday that asylum-seeker arrivals had dropped to their lowest level in almost five years and there would be no “stepping back” from its hardline policy, despite tensions with Jakarta.

Canberra’s military-run Operation Sovereign Borders policy, which sees asylum-seeker boats turned back when it is safe to do so, has angered Indonesia due to several incursions, despite an official apology.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said that no would-be refugees had arrived in Australia by boat for 36 days — the longest stretch without a vessel in almost five years.

“This is the longest period of no illegal boat arrivals since March of 2009,” Morrison said in a statement.

Under new Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s punitive anti people-smuggling policy, asylum-seekers arriving by boat are sent to Pacific island camps for processing with no chance of settlement in Australia.

Boats can also be turned back if intercepted at sea.

Morrison said in the first 100 days of the operation, arrivals by boat had dropped by more than 80 percent.

“While these results were pleasing, arrivals of around 300 per month do not constitute success,” Morrison said.

“Being able to sustain a zero rate of arrivals for more than five weeks takes us further, but these outcomes need to be sustained.

“This is not the time for stepping back, but to maintain the full pressure of our operations on criminal people smugglers, that are clearly getting results.”

Asylum-seekers arriving on unauthorized boats in Australia, often via Indonesia, are a sensitive issue for both sides, and Canberra’s revelations of several incursions into Indonesian waters has angered in Jakarta.

Indonesia has demanded Australia suspend its maritime asylum-seeker operations until they can be further clarified, and has also pledged to step up navy patrols in its southern maritime borders.

Asked about the situation in Davos, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa described Australia’s policy as “quite unhelpful”.

“I have said in the past that this can be a slippery slope. That’s why we feel that it will be best if we all take stock of where we are just now and ensure that things don’t get out of hand,” he said in comments reported by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Morrison said Australia would continue to work with “any and all partners, especially within our region to defeat the people smugglers and to continue to keep them informed of our own efforts and activities.”

The minister also commended all Australian personnel involved in Operation Sovereign Borders for their “professional and dedicated efforts”.

The Australian navy has been accused of mistreating asylum-seekers onboard a vessel which was pushed back to Indonesia, allegations the government has rejected.

The ABC has reported claims that 10 asylum-seekers had required medical treatment, including seven who had burns on their hands after being instructed to hold onto a hot pipe on their ship’s engine.

Agence France-Presse

  • billy

    i totally agree with aus…. indonesia needs to get itself better prepared for these people who actually break international laws…
    Anyway… do they think aus is the land of hope and good n glory???? it certainly is not… but they have plenty of room thats for sure…

    • David Hill

      If you are talking about the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants
      by Land, Sea and Air, supplementing the
      United Nations Convention against
      Transnational Organized Crime , if you read it it says “Article 19. Saving clause
      1. Nothing in this Protocol shall affect the other rights, obligations and
      responsibilities of States and individuals under international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law and, in particular, where applicable, the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol
      relating to the Status of Refugees and the principle of non-refoulement as contained therein.” and in the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol it states ”

      Article 31
      refugees unlawfully in the country of refugee
      1. The Contracting States shall not impose penalties, on account of their
      illegal entry or presence, on refugees who, coming directly from a territory
      where their life or freedom was threatened in the sense of article 1, enter or
      are present in their territory without authorization, provided they present
      themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their
      illegal entry or presence.

      the term “come directly” is interprerated like this by the UNHCR “The term “coming directly” covers the situation of a person who enters the country in which asylum is sought directly from the country of origin, or from another country where his protection could not be assured. It is clear from the travaux préparatoires, however, that the term also covers a person who transits an intermediate country for a short time without having applied for or received asylum there. The drafters of the Convention introduced the term “coming directly” not to exclude those who had transited another country, but rather to exclude those who “had settled temporarily” in one country, from freely entering another (travaux préparatoires A/CONF.2/SR 14 p.10). No strict time limit can be applied to the concept “coming directly”, and each case will have to be judged on its merits. The issue of “coming directly” is also related to the problem of identifying the country responsible for examining an asylum request and granting adequate and effective protection.

      Given the special situation of a refugee, in particular the frequent fear of auth other problems, lack of information and general insecurity, and the fact that these and circumstances may vary enormously from one refugee to another, there is no time limit which can be mechanically applied associated with the term “without delay” [a condition foreseen in Article 31 (I)]. Along with the term “good cause” [another condition foreseen in Article 31 (I)], it must take into account all of the circumstances under which the asylum seeker fled (e.g. having no time for immigration formalities].

      • The Doc

        Re:David Hill.
        The UN Convention on refugees is like the vast majority of UN treaties NON BINDING.
        The UN has no legal power to enforce the convention should any member nation choose to disregard said convention or article.

        No clearer example to this is the State of Israel which simply ignores all UN charters and directives that it wants.

        Australian citizens are opposed to the illegal floating queue jumpers.and the Abbott government is simply responding to the demands of the majority of Australians.

        When the UN fields candidates in Australian federal elections and manages to win sufficient seats to hold power in both the upper and lower house then and only then will they have the right and the power to ram their conventions down the throats of the average Australian.

        Until such a time the UN can shove their conventions where they best fit.

  • Noddy Knows

    billy was talking about the boat people breaking the laws not Indonesia.

  • Dazeddazza

    It would be interesting to hear from readers in the “stand by” areas in Indonesia where the illegals wait for their boats. Has there been a decline in the numbers, or are they still waiting?