Indonesia Condemns Australian Refugee Hypocrisy


MAY 21, 2015

Jakarta. A spokesman for Indonesia's Foreign Affairs Ministry on Thursday called on the Australian government to "believe in what they sign," after Prime Minister Tony Abbott refused to offer temporary resettlement to thousands of Rohingya and Bangladeshi asylum seekers — despite being a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Refugees.

"Nope, nope, nope," Abbott said on Thursday when asked if Australia was prepared to resettle thousands of refugees fleeing Myanmar.

"I'm sorry. If you want to start a new life, you come through the front door, not through the back door," the prime minister said in comments published by the Sydney Morning Herald.

Abbott has held fast to his government's "stop the boats" policy, in which boats attempting to enter Australia's territorial waters are turned around to their country of origin and would-be refugees are expected to apply for immigrant status before reaching Australia.

Australia's off-shore detention centers, in which asylum seekers are confined for processing, have been the subject of repeated condemnations by the UN for violating human rights.

Foreign ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir called on the Australian government to honor its commitments, saying that "parties to the convention on refugees have a responsibility to ensure they believe in what they sign."

Indonesia and Malaysia have both offered one year of temporary settlement for the thousands of Rohingya whose boats have washed up on the coast of the two countries. Neither are signatories to the UN convention.

Meanwhile, the Australian government announced an extra A$6 million ($4.7 million) in aid would be allocated to humanitarian agencies in Myanmar, focusing on the Rakhine state which is home to the Rohingya minority.

This funding announcement comes a week after Indonesia's allocated aid budget was cut by 40 percent by Australia, a figure equivalent to a A$28 million withdrawal.