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CHOGM 2011: “Could a refugee exchange be on the agenda?”
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CHOGM 2011: “Could a refugee exchange be on the agenda?”

World leaders are in Perth on the west coast of Australia this week to take part in the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

Steph Carter, 20, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Queensland, reports on one of the controversial items likely to be discussed by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her Malaysian counterpart: an exchange of refugees and asylum seekers.

Just when we thought it was dead in the water, comments made by Julia Gillard earlier this week suggest that the Malaysia Solution is back on the agenda for official CHOGM proceedings this weekend.

Said Ms Gillard to reporters on Monday, “our policy is that we believe we should be able to implement the arrangement with Malaysia”. The Government’s Malaysia Solution, which would see Australia send 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia in return for 4,000 ‘genuine’ refugees, outraged human rights groups when it was announced some months ago.

According to Ms Gillard, the deal remains the most ‘effective deterrent available’ to Australia, preventing the ‘leaky boats’ from reaching Australian shores. Ms Gillard remains supportive of the proposed Malaysia Solution, despite the High Court’s decision to rule it out in August earlier this year.

“That is the policy of the Government now, it will be the policy of the Government in the future”. Ms Gillard expects to discuss the proposed Solution with the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Najik Razak, during CHOGM 2011 proceedings.

In the meantime, the Labour Government has opted to run with a domestic processing alternative, where asylum seekers will be released into the community awaiting claim assessments.

CHOGM 2011- The Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard greets The Prime Minister of Malaysia The Honourable Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak before their bilateral meeting at the Pan Pacific Hotel Thursday 27 October 2011. Photograph by John Donegan/CHOGM.

CHOGM 2011- The Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard greets The Prime Minister of Malaysia The Honourable Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak before their bilateral meeting at the Pan Pacific Hotel Thursday 27 October 2011. Photograph by John Donegan/CHOGM.

While Ms Gillard lists combating people smuggling and preventing further boat arrival tragedies as primary reasons for the deal, many civil society groups disagree with this form of border security management. Young Australians are amongst those in opposition to the solution.

Said Ms Woods, National Director of World Vision’s national youth movement Vision Generation, “In Australia, we need to change the conversation from being focused on protecting our borders, to being focused on protecting human rights – so that we pursue genuine solutions that reflect the generous and welcoming nature of Australians.

“We need to remember we can’t contract out our moral or legal obligations to protect human rights to any other country”

With the spotlight back on Malaysia, the CHOGM weekend is sure to produce some interesting discussion between both the Malaysian and Australian Heads of State.

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About me:

“I’m a student based in Brisbane, Australia. I am currently in my final year of undergraduate study at the University of Queensland, studying Development, Journalism and International Relations and will be commencing a Masters of International Studies in 2012.

“Aside from my study commitments, I lead a hectic life! I’m passionate about aid and development and am involved with World Vision Australia’s national youth movement ‘Vision Generation’. I also work part time in the travel industry (which might explain my love of travel) and when I have spare time, you can find me playing my piano.”

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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