Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has announced the Labor party's tough new stance against asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat, as well as indicating a crackdown against people smugglers - those responsible for boat arrivals in Australia. In 2012, the total number of people who arrived in Australia by boat was 17,202. This year, the number of boats has not abated and in recent weeks, a number of people who boarded boats to come to Australia have died before arriving. This is a highly-emotive and politically-charged issue and the population of Australia is sharply divided on the subject of asylum seekers arriving by boat.
The announcement concerning asylum seekers, made on 19 July, is called the Australia and Papua New Guinea Regional Settlement Arrangement. Prime Minister Rudd announced:
'As of today asylum seekers who come here by boat without a visa will never be settled in Australia. Under the new arrangement signed with Papua New Guinea today – the Regional Settlement Arrangement - unauthorised arrivals will be sent to Papua New Guinea for assessment and if found to be a refugee will be settled there. Arriving in Australia by boat will no longer mean settlement in Australia. Australians have had enough of seeing people drowning in the waters to our north. Our country has had enough of people smugglers exploiting asylum seekers and seeing them drown on the high seas.' See media release.
Transcript of the joint press conference on 19 July 2013 – Prime Minister of Australia, Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Minister for Immigration, Attorney-General will give you more detailed information about this new arrangement and Prime Minister Rudd's intention to review the United Nations Convention on Refugees.
Response of the media:
- 'Australia will never accept boat people: Rudd' by Ehssan Veiszadeh, SMH, 19 July 2013
- 'Rudd’s hard-line approach will be disastrous' by Victoria Stead, The Age, 22 July 2013
- 'Australia and asylum seekers: where do the Rudd reforms leave us?' by Savitri Taylor, The Conversation, 22 July 2013
- 'FactCheck: are boat people now 20% of our immigration program?' by Savitri Taylor and Kerry Murphy, The Conversation, 22 July 2013
- 'Explainer: Australia’s obligations under the UN Refugee Convention' by Azadeh Dastyari, The Conversation, 18 July 2013
Statistics on boat arrivals
- Boat arrivals in Australia since 1976 by Janet Phillips and Harriet Spinks, Australian Parliamentary Library, updated 29 January 2013 – see Appendix A: Boat arrivals since 1976 by calendar year
- Statistics on asylum seekers arriving in Australia – Refugee Council of Australia
Targeting people smugglers
The Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Jason Clare, announced that the Australian Federal Police will pay rewards of up to $200,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of people organising people smuggling ventures to Australia.
'There are criminals in Australia that are part of international people smuggling syndicates. These syndicates stretch from Australia to Indonesia and to places like Malaysia, Pakistan, Iran and Iraq. Australian based people smugglers help to organise passengers, collect payments and transfer money overseas. These people are peddling in misery and death. We need to shut this market down. That’s why we are putting a bounty on their heads.' See media release.
For more information about asylum seekers and refugees and Australia’s response to their plight, see our Research Guide HSC Legal Studies: Human Rights – Asylum seekers and refugees. You will find helpful information under the tab 'Human Rights in Australia'. Note that you can use the tabs along the top of the guide to find information on a range of human rights topics and issues.