Saturday, July 23, 2011

Australia and Malaysia to sign refugee pact on Monday

The Star Online > Nation
Saturday July 23, 2011
PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia and Australia will go ahead and sign their refugee and asylum seeker exchange programme.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein will sign on behalf of the Malaysian Government and Australia's Immigration Minister Chris Bowen will represent his country.

The deal on Monday will see 4,000 UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)-registered asylum seekers in Malaysia resettled in Austra- lia.
Australia, in turn, will send 800 unprocessed asylum seekers to Malaysia for refugee assessment.

The process is expected to take four years to complete and will be funded by Australia.
"For Malaysia, the agreement will be beneficial because it will help us deal with a long-standing problem of refugees who continue to come to our country in search of asylum when we have limited means to help them," a local source told Reuters.

The Sydney Morning Herald, citing unnamed sources, said the deal had the support of the United Nations, which had originally been concerned that the agreement could breach international refugee rights.

Australia currently has more than 6,000 asylum seekers in detention, originating from countries like Iran, Iraq, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.

Malaysia, on the other hand, saw 25,600 refugees registering with the UNHCR last year to seek asylum, the highest among all countries where the refugee agency has offices.

They bring the number of registered refugees and asylum seekers here to 93,600 mostly from Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan according to UNHCR's office in Malaysia.

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