Australia’s government Sunday renewed its call for a refugee swap deal with Malaysia after an asylum seeker boat sank off remote Christmas Island leaving up to around 90 people dead or unaccounted for.
Canberra clinched a deal last year to send 800 boatpeople to Malaysia in exchange for 4,000 of that country’s registered refugees to deter people-smugglers from the dangerous maritime voyage Down Under.
But Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s fragile coalition government was unable to pass the required legislation through parliament without the support of the opposition and asylum-seekers have continued to risk the voyage, mostly via Indonesia.
“Without the Malaysia solution you’ve got a cobbled together Indonesian solution that is wholly unsatisfactory, it’s not protecting the borders, it’s not saving lives,” Foreign Minister Bob Carr said.
Carr’s comments came after Australia suspended the search for more survivors from a people-smuggling boat which capsized in the Indian Ocean between Indonesia and Christmas Island three days ago.