Australia now closed to asylum seekers: Rudd

AFP-JIJI

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on Friday announced that no more boat people will be resettled in Australia and all unauthorized arrivals will be sent to poverty-stricken Papua New Guinea.

“From now on, any asylum seeker who arrives in Australia by boat will have no chance of being settled in Australia as a refugee,” said Rudd, flanked by his PNG counterpart, Peter O’Neill.

Asylum seekers arriving at Australia’s far-flung Christmas Island will be sent to the Manus Island processing center on Papua New Guinea and elsewhere in the country for assessment. “If they are found to be genuine refugees, they will be resettled in Papua New Guinea,” Rudd said.

The aim is to pose a strong disincentive for those considering the treacherous boat journey, usually from Indonesia, particularly “economic migrants” making the trip not to flee persecution but to start a better life.

Canberra has struggled to stem an influx of asylum seekers arriving by boat, with record numbers turning up last year and more than 13,000 so far in 2013. Hundreds have drowned making the journey, and Australia’s plans to send asylum seekers to remote Pacific islands for processing has so far failed to stem the flood.

“Australians have had enough of seeing people drowning in the waters to our north,” said Rudd, who faces elections this year where asylum seekers will be a major policy issue. “Our country has had enough of people-smugglers exploiting asylum seekers and seeing them drown on the seas.”