by Allanah Leahy – EM TV News, Port Moresby
Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton revealed on Thursday that over 600 asylum seekers have been turned away since the Australian and Papua New Guinean governments’ Regional Resettlement Arrangement was announced in 2013.
Despite being criticised by the United Nations and human rights groups over human rights breaches, which include a media blackout and the sanctioning of medical information, both governments have remained committed to upholding their turn-back-the-boats policy.
Around the world, the scenes remain the same; hundreds of migrants are losing their lives, making the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean to reach Europe and escape the unrest and danger of their home countries. In Australia, however, leaders are celebrating the outcome of their hard-line approach to refugees.
“The fact that today we celebrate that we have not had a successful people-smuggling venture in a year, and that over the course of the last 18 months or so, we have turned back 20 boats and stopped 633 people from arriving in our country, is a significant achievement of the Abbott government,” said Dutton.
Australia works alongside respective governments to support the policy, including Vietnam, on a case-by-case basis. Under Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s leadership, only 25 Rohingya refugees have been accepted.
“We have a very clear policy in place and that is that people who seek to come to our country by boat illegally will not settle in our country and so we have worked on a bilateral basis with the Vietnamese government. Those 46 people have been returned, the boat that they came on has been scuttled and we have been able to stare down that venture,” said Dutton.
Human rights advocates have been in an uproar over the policy’s secrecy, including the recent sanctioning of all medical information coming out of Australian-run detention centres. The most recent of these have been 67 child abuse allegations at the Nauru detention centre, including a child asylum seeker that was seeking medical treatment after being raped by a fellow detainee.