Thursday, August 11, 2011

Hisham: Swap pact aimed at curbing human trafficking


KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia and Australia have inked a landmark agreement on the transfer and resettlement of asylum seekers, aimed at stopping human trafficking syndicates from profiting from human misery.

The historic deal the first in the world will see 4,000 refugees in Malaysia sent to Australia while 800 people from that country will be resettled here in the next four years.

Australia is expected to fork out A$292mil (RM940mil) for the programme.

It’s a deal: Hishammuddin shaking hands with Bowen after signing the landmark agreement in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. Looking on are Deputy Home Minister Datuk Lee Chee Leong (left) and Datuk Wira Abu Seman Yusop (third from left).

Although the exact date for the exchange has not been fixed, the first batch of transfers is expected to be this year.

The agreement was signed by Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and Australia's Immigration and Citizenship Minister Chris Bowenhere yesterday.

Both ministers said the cooperation reflected their countries' commitment to solve human trafficking and “other issues that come with it”, such as terrorism, money laundering, and arms and drugs smuggling.

Hishammuddin said both countries wanted to send a clear message to syndicates not to treat them as a “haven to make profit from innocent, defenceless people”.

“This agreement is a mechanism to stop this vile trade that is a form of modern day slavery.

“By working closely with the Australian Government, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), we are able to develop an agreement that does just that while looking after the interests of Malaysia, Australia and - above all - the immigrants,” he said after the signing ceremony.

Thanking UNHCR and IOM, which would monitor and safeguard standards of treatment in Malaysia, Hishammuddin said those who came under the deal would be allowed to work and have access to education and health.

“The best way to prove our commitment is through the operational side later. Judge us by the results,” he said, adding that the 800 sent here would be screened to ensure that they were not on the terrorist and wanted lists, and not illegals.

Describing the move as innovative and bold, Bowen thanked Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak for his leadership in seeing the agreement through.

“As Immigration Minister, I hope not to get another phone call about people and children as young as two months old having drowned trying to come to Australia,” he said.

Oversight and advisory committees would also provide advice to both governments on day-to-day management of the arrangement and the welfare of those involved, added Bowen.

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