Australia expects to finalize asylum deal with Malaysia in weeks

13:38, May 25, 2011      

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Australian federal government on Wednesday said it expected to finalize the asylum-seeker swap deal with Malaysia in "coming weeks".

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said he is "very satisfied" with the progress of negotiations between Australia and Malaysia over the final agreement, which will see up to 800 new boat arrivals to be relocated to Malaysia for processing, in return for Australia resettling 4,000 Malaysian refugees.

When asked when the agreement would be signed, Bowen on Wednesday told ABC Radio: "In coming weeks."

When pressed on what "coming weeks" meant, the minister said, " Weeks, not months."

Bowen added that Australia was keen to pursue similar agreements with other nations in the Pacific-Asia region.

Since the deal was first announced on May 7, 107 boat people had been picked up in waters off the Western Australian coast.

Immigration Department confirmed that these 107 people will all be processed overseas, but it is unclear when and where they will be sent, as the deal with Malaysia is yet to be formalized.

Australian Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said these asylum seekers were now stuck in legal limbo on Christmas Island, including seventeen children, some as young as four, and nine were unaccompanied minors.

"(Immigration Minister Chris Bowen) is undermining his role as guardian to protect these kids simply to uphold what is a poorly patched together agreement with (Malaysia) which has not signed the refugee convention," Senator Hanson-Young said.

Source: Xinhua
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