Australia now closed to boat people: PM
Sydney: Prime Minister Kevin Rudd Friday announced that no more boat people will be resettled in Australia as refugees, with all unauthorised arrivals to be sent to poverty-stricken Papua New Guinea.
"From now on, any asylum-seeker who arrives in Australia by boat will have no chance of being settled in Australia as a refugee," said Rudd, unveiling his new hardline border protection policy in an election year flanked by PNG counterpart Peter O'Neill. Asylum-seekers arriving at Australia's far-flung Christmas Island will be sent to the Manus Island processing centre on Papua New Guinea and elsewhere in the Pacific nation for assessment, with no cap on the number to be transferred.
Even if found to be "genuine refugees" Rudd said asylum-seekers would have "no chance" of settlement in Australia under the harsh new policy. Those whose applications were not successful would be sent back home or to third countries.
The Regional Settlement Arrangement, which was signed by the two leaders Friday, will initially be in effect for 12 months and reviewed annually. It will come into effect immediately. The aim is to pose a strong disincentive for people considering the dangerous boat journey from Indonesia, particularly so-called "economic migrants" who make the trip not to flee persecution but for a better life in Australia.