The Labour Government may have finally found a solution to its problem of asylum seekers arriving by boat. The Government is proposing a deal with the Malaysian Government in which boat borne asylum seekers arriving in Australia would be sent to Malaysia where they will go to the end of the queue of 100,000 asylum seekers. In return Australia will take a multiple of approved asylum seekers from the top of the list. This seems like the making of an ideal solution.
I would favour an agreement with Malaysia that went as follows:
1. Australia agrees to take a minimum of 5000 asylum seekers from Malaysia each year, as an increment to our existing immigration program. Those persons will be from the top of the list of applicants in Malaysia who are acceptable to Australia.
2. In return Malaysia will accept up to 1250 persons per year who go to the bottom of the asylum seeker processing queue. If there are more than 1250 persons sent from Australia to Malaysia in a year then 4 persons will come to Australia from Malaysia for each sent to Malaysia.
I know it is repugnant to speak of human lives as if they were tonnes of iron ore, but there is no other to discuss the matter.
This arrangement would reduce overall human suffering and bring boat arrivals to an end. That has to be close to the best solution we can get to the problem of boat borne asylum seekers. The incentives are so right here. Who will pay a large amount of money and risk death at sea to arrive in Australia only to be put at the end of the queue in Malaysia? Nobody. If the arrangement is maintained, then boat arrivals will end, for sure. So long as there is no collusion between persons at the top of the list with those at the bottom, then this is an ideal solution.
The antipathy toward boat borne asylum seekers has several components. One is that some people don’t want to accept asylum seekers, no matter how they arrive. This proposal is worse for that group because it leads to more arrivals overall. Then there are others, like me, who are happy with the current, or an expanded, acceptance of refugees but don’t like arrivals by boat because it rewards queue jumping and is against the rule of law. I think the second group is the larger part of opposition to acceptance of boat borne asylum seekers. This is a solution for that group.