CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s prime minister warned Friday that all refugees who arrive in the country by boat will be resettled on the island nation of Papua New Guinea, a policy shift that rights groups immediately condemned.
The move, described by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd as “very hard line,” aims to deter an escalating number of asylum seekers who travel to Australia in rickety fishing boats from poor, war-torn homelands through other countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia. The growing influx is a major political problem for Rudd’s Labor Party, which is the clear underdog in elections expected within months.
The new plan “shows not only a complete disregard for asylum seekers but absolute contempt for legal and moral obligations,” said Graeme McGregor, Amnesty International’s refugee campaign co-ordinator for Australia.
David Manne, executive director of Australia’s Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre, described it as “a fundamental repudiation of our commitment to protecting refugees.”