Tuesday 24 May 2022 | 00:57 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 24 May 2022 | 00:57 | SYDNEY

Assumptions behind the Malaysia deal


Andrew Carr


27 July 2011 15:10

I think the Malaysia asylum-seeker swap is good policy. It is another small step towards a long-term regional solution to the problem. There are, however, a number of big assumptions built into the agreement:

  1. Asylum seekers will learn about the deal, and decide it isn't worth risking their lives heading to Australia if they will be automatically sent back to Malaysia.
  2. This attitude will persist beyond the 800 who are instantly returned under the terms of the deal, permanently deterring people smuggling (rather than just causing a short-term reduction).
  3. Granting exemptions to the return of the young and elderly would have encouraged people smugglers to pack more of them onto boats to Australia.
  4. Malaysia can exercise some control, all the way down to street-level police officers, to protect those sent back.
  5. The Australian public will come to see the swap as providing a certainty and control to the process (all 4000 arrivals we take as part of the swap will be UNHCR-approved).
  6. Other countries in the region will endorse the swap as a way to address their biggest problem (sheer numbers), and will seek to participate.

All of those assumptions can be challenged. Right now the Government is taking heat over Number #3, but #1 and #5 are more important, and in both cases, the mechanism for a shift in attitudes isn't clear. Number #4 presents the biggest long-term risk to the deal, while #6 is the biggest opportunity. 

And you know what they say about assumptions...

Photo by Flickr user UN Photo.