Australia signs deal to send 'boat people' to Papua New Guinea

Former prime minister attacks new policy as ‘an abdication of our basic humanity’

The Australian Prime Minister unveiled the most draconian refugee policy in the country’s history today, announcing that asylum-seekers who arrive by boat will be resettled not in Australia but in neighbouring Papua New Guinea, a nation riddled with crime, poverty and corruption.

The announcement by Kevin Rudd – seen as an attempt to win over blue-collar voters before an election later this year – took the conservative opposition by surprise and horrified human rights advocates.

“This is a day of shame,” said Christine Milne, leader of the Australian Greens.

Asylum-seekers – who have been arriving in record numbers this year – were sent to Papua New Guinea’s remote Manus Island between 2001 and 2007, but only to have their refugee claims processed. Abandoned by Mr Rudd in 2008, the policy was resurrected last year by his Labor successor, Julia Gillard.

Now Mr Rudd, who deposed Ms Gillard last month, has gone further – a step some believe contravenes the UN refugee convention, which Australia has signed. Malcolm Fraser, a former prime minister, called it “an abdication of our basic humanity”.

A developing nation with poor healthcare, high unemployment, a dubious human rights record and, in its capital, Port Moresby, one of the world’s worst crime rates, Papua New Guinea is an unlikely refugee destination.

“This really does say to the rest of the world that Australia is a very rich country which is prepared to pass the buck to a very poor country because a prime minister doesn’t have the courage or the moral authority to do the right thing by refugees,” said Ms Milne.

Mr Rudd has had discussions with  Papua New Guinea’s premier, Peter O’Neill, but has yet to reveal how much Australia will pay Papua New Guinea for relieving it of a heavy political burden. He said the resettlement programme, which will run for at least a year, “will not be inexpensive”.

The aim is to deter asylum-seekers from embarking on the perilous voyage across the Indian Ocean from Indonesia, the main transit country – and demonstrate that Labor is prepared to be even tougher than the opposition Liberals, who have promised to “turn back” boats mid-ocean.

Labor has seen its fortunes soar since Mr Rudd resumed office. Setting a hectic pace, he has abolished an unpopular carbon tax and suspended the party’s corruption-plagued New South Wales branch.

The asylum issue is one of the thorniest in Australia, with voters in marginal seats citing it as one of their chief concerns. Head of the Liberal Party and opposition leader Tony Abbott had no choice but to “welcome” the new policy, although he predicted that “it won’t work under Mr Rudd”.

Nearly 16,000 asylum-seekers have arrived in Australian waters this year. An advertising campaign starting today will feature an image of a fishing boat mid-ocean and the warning that “if you come here by boat, you won’t be settled in Australia”.

“Boat people” will be processed at the Manus centre, where conditions were criticised in a UN report earlier this month. Those whose asylum claims are rejected will be sent home or deported to a third country.

Mr Rudd, who could call an election as early as next month, admitted that the policy was “very hardline”. But he said it was the government’s responsibility to “ensure we have a robust system of border security and orderly migration”.

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

General Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?