Refugee relief at Malaysian ruling

By Nathan Partenza, The Border Mail

A BORDER refugee advocate has described the High Court’s scuttling of the Malaysian refugee swap deal as “excellent”, saying the risk of persecution in the country was “high”.

Murray Valley Sanctuary Refugee Group president Penny Egan-Vine said yesterday’s ruling, which means 800 asylum seekers will not be sent to Malaysia, was a relief.

“I think it’s a very reasonable decision and I’m very pleased that they managed to find the funds to challenge it because Australia is obliged not to put people back into situations of danger,” she said.

“Refugees are a worldwide problem and putting it in the hands of a political football is not in the interest of the people involved or the interest of Australia.

“It would have been buck-passing by giving someone else our problem to deal with, which is not fair.”

Dr Egan-Vine said the High Court ruling was not a surprise and refugees would have been in danger if they had have been sent to Malaysia and would have missed out on welfare and integration assistance.

“To move refugees to a place like Malaysia which is crowded and is a developing country rather than a developed country, would have been unwise.

“I believe Australia now needs to come up with solutions that recognise we have a duty in helping manage refugees.

“The politics of fear just means they cannot get on with the job of helping people.”

Dr Egan-Vine said the decision may force Malaysia to review its treatment of refugees, but she did not believe it would have an impact on boat arrivals to Australia.

“I don’t think the people overseas are at all interested in what’s happening here, they just think Australia is the place to come,” she said.

Wodonga refugee Bahati Masudi, who spent nine years in a Kenyan refugee camp also welcomed the decision.

“If there was no trouble, no problems in Malaysia, we could send them no problem but if they persecute them that is a big problem,” Mr Masudi said.