Nauru to resettle boat people
Nauru has become the second Pacific island nation to agree to settle refugees who attempt to reach Australia by boat, in a deal aimed at deterring asylum seekers that was quickly attacked by critics. Nauru signed the agreement two weeks after Papua New Guinea made a similar deal with the Australian government in return for foreign aid. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd hopes to deter an escalating number of asylum seekers who travel to Australia in rickety fishing boats from poor, often war-torn homelands through other countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia. …
When the Papua New Guinea deal was signed on July 19, Rudd warned that no asylum seekers in boats would ever be accepted by Australia. Rights groups condemned the policy as an abrogation of Australia’s responsibilities as a signatory to the United Nations’ Refugee Convention. However, the boats have continued to arrive, carrying around 100 asylum seekers a day.
“No matter where people smugglers try to land asylum seekers by boat in Australia, they will not be settled in Australia. This is our core principle,” Rudd told reporters Saturday.
“Those seeking safe haven will have the opportunity to settle and reside in Nauru,” he said. …
Both Nauru and Papua New Guinea are signatories to the U.N. Refugee Convention, but rights groups doubt they have the financial resources to fulfill their obligations. Sen. Christine Milne, leader of the influential Australian Greens Party, which argues that Australia should welcome all asylum seekers, attacked the latest deal. “There’s no way that Nauru can absorb a large number of people in a resettlement program, and tellingly the prime minister didn’t say exactly how many he expected to be resettled on Nauru, and neither did the president of Nauru because, frankly, it’s absurd,” Milne said. …
Immigration Minister Tony Burke said Australia could strike similar agreements with other countries in the Asia-Pacific region to resettle refugees.