UNHCR for Refugees welcomes Australia, Malaysia refugee deal

10:44, May 10, 2011      

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The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) on Monday welcomed the agreement reached by the Australian and Malaysian governments on the resettlement of asylum seekers.

On Saturday, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced Australia is close to signing a bilateral agreement, which would see 800 people who tried to get to Australia by boat taken immediately to Malaysia.

In return Australia has agreed to take 4,000 genuine refugees who have had their claims assessed in Malaysia. The agreement is yet to be formalized.

The announcement has aroused attacked from Australian Opposition, saying that Malaysia is not a signatory to the Untied Nations Refugee Convention.

However, UNHCR regional representative, Richard Towle, said Malaysia has agreed to abide by key parts of the convention.

"We need to look at the details of how people will be treated and the various rights and entitlements and conditions for them when they go back there (Malaysia)," he was quoted by ABC News on Monday.

"But most of the world's refugees are today living in countries that haven't signed the Refugee Convention so the fact that you haven't signed the convention doesn't mean that you're not treated properly. "Having said that, it is important to identify the core protection safeguards that we would like to see in any return arrangement."

Towle also said if the agreement is appropriately monitored by the UNHCR, the scheme has potential to deliver not only outcomes for governments in terms of dealing with human smuggling and trafficking movements, but also will deliver improved protection for people in the region.

Earlier, Australian Greens have described the proposal as " appalling", saying it would lead to vulnerable people being dumped in a country with a poor human rights record.

Source: Xinhua
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