Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill have announced an agreement that will ensure asylum seekers who arrive by boat will be sent to Manus Island and refused settlement in Australia.
The two prime ministers signed the Regional Settlement Arrangement in Brisbane this afternoon. Speaking at a press conference, Kevin Rudd said: “As of today asylum seekers who come here by boat without a visa will never be settled in Australia.”
Rudd said the plan was aimed at destroying the business model of the people smugglers. “Be in no doubt. If people are paying thousands and thousands of dollars to a people smuggler they are buying a ticket to a country other than Australia.”
From today, asylum seekers who arrive by boat will undergo medical checks and then be sent to Manus Island. If found to be genuine asylum seekers, they will be resettled in PNG.
There is no cap on the number of people who will be sent to Manus Island. The agreement will be reviewed in 12 months.
In return for PNG’s co-operation, Australia has undertaken to provide funding for education and health projects.
The Australian Greens condemned the plan and said it was “a day of shame” for Australia.
The Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, gave tentative support to the plan but cast doubt on Labor’s ability to implement it. He said: “I welcome it but it won’t work under Mr. Rudd.”
The PNG solution is likely to neutralise the issue of asylum seekers in the forthcoming elections. Speculation continues to mount that Rudd will call an election for August 31.
Kevin Rudd has also released an “Address to the Nation” on the asylum seekers issue.
- Download details of the Regional Settlement Agreement
- Download the government statement on the agreement (PDF) – text below
- Watch Rudd’s Address to the Nation:
- Listen to the Rudd and O’Neill press conference (23m)
- Watch an extract of Kevin Rudd:
- Listen to Milne and Hanson-Young (15m)
- Listen to Abbott, Bishop and Morrison (9m)
- Watch an extract of Tony Abbott:
Text of statement from Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
AUSTRALIA AND PAPUA NEW GUINEA REGIONAL SETTLEMENT ARRANGEMENT
As of today asylum seekers who come here by boat without a visa will never be settled in Australia.
Under the new arrangement signed with Papua New Guinea today – the Regional Settlement Arrangement – unauthorised arrivals will be sent to Papua New Guinea for assessment and if found to be a refugee will be settled there.
Arriving in Australia by boat will no longer mean settlement in Australia.
Australians have had enough of seeing people drowning in the waters to our north.
Our country has had enough of people smugglers exploiting asylum seekers and seeing them drown on the high seas.
We are sick of watching our servicemen and women risking their lives in rescues in dangerous conditions on the high seas.
Regional processing arrangements in Papua New Guinea will be significantly expanded andpeople will be sent to Manus Island as soon as health checks are complete and appropriate accommodation is identified.
PNG officials will assess their claims on Manus Island.
Our governments will expand existing facilities on Manus Island, as well as establishing further facilities in Papua New Guinea.
There is no cap on the number of people who can be transferred to Papua New Guinea.
The Australian Government, in partnership with the PNG Government, will support settlementservices for those with refugee status, as safe and appropriate accommodation and services are identified.
We are a compassionate nation and we will continue to deliver a strong humanitarian program.
If the measure announced today and the international meeting on the Convention that has been flagged lead to a significant change in the number of people arriving by boat, then theGovernment stands ready to consider progressively increasing our humanitarian intake towards 27,000 as recommended by the Houston Panel.
There is nothing compassionate about criminal operations which see children and familiesdrowning at sea.
Access to our humanitarian program must be through the international organisations which resettle people around the world, not through criminal operators who have pushed people onto unseaworthy vessels with tragic consequences.
The new arrangements will allow Australia to help more people who are genuinely in need andhelp prevent people smugglers from abusing our system.
The people smugglers themselves are constantly changing the way they operate and we need to be flexible enough to anticipate and match their actions to avoid the terrible consequences of this trade.
No doubt there will be some people smugglers who now encourage asylum seekers to test our resolve.
Be in no doubt. If people are paying thousands and thousands of dollars to a people smuggler they are buying a ticket to a country other than Australia.
19 JULY 2013
This advertisement has been placed by the Australian Government in weekend newspapers:
Text of statement from Senator Christine Milne, leader of the Australian Greens.
AUSTRALIA’S DAY OF REFUGEE SHAME
Prime Minister Rudd’s refugee announcement is Australia’s day of refugee shame, Greens Leader Senator Christine Milne said.
“A rich country like Australia paying off a poor country to take our desperate refugees is passing the buck and an abrogation of our responsibilities to people and the international community,” Senator Milne said.
“It’s not a regional solution, but a radical, right-wing, hard-line response. Manus Island will be Australia’s gulag in PNG.
“Many people will feel ashamed and disappointed at the decision to dump some of the world’s most vulnerable people on one of the world’s most impoverished countries.
“Once again Labor has failed to have the courage to stand up for what is right.”
Greens Immigration spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said Kevin Rudd’s hard-line means a ‘horrible line’ for refugees.
“This is a rush to the right, a rush to refugee cruelty so that Kevin Rudd can rush to the polls,” Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said.
“This heartless policy will cost Australian taxpayers billions of dollars at the expense of our values of fairness and compassion.
“Permanently resettling refugees in Papua New Guinea is no way to respond to people seeking protection.
“The government can’t have it both ways. It has already said it’s sending people to PNG as a cruel punishment, now it wants to say it is an appropriate place to permanently resettle refugees.
“What Mr Rudd should have announced today is commitment to a genuine regional approach that cares for refugees with the kind of political leadership shown after the Vietnam War.
“While PNG have signed the Refugee Convention, their commitment to it in practice and their capacity to implement it is fraught.”