South Pacific nations including the Solomon Islands have offered to host processing centers for boat people arriving in Australia, a report said yesterday.
Australia wants to send all asylum seekers who arrive by boat to other nations to have their refugee claims assessed as it struggles to break people-smuggling rings that bring hundreds of people to its shores each year.
The government has said that Malaysia and Papua New Guinea are its main focus, but the Weekend Australian newspaper said that South Pacific Nations such as the politically fragile Solomons were also keen to be part of the plan.
The newspaper cited unnamed senior government sources as saying the Solomons had already made an approach to a parliamentary secretary for Pacific islands affairs to host an Australia-funded processing center, but it was declined.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s center-left Labor government has said it wants to process all boatpeople offshore to prevent people from making the risky sea voyage to Australia, which last year claimed scores of lives.
An initial proposal for East Timor to host a regional processing center seems unlikely to go ahead, but talks on reopening an old center on impoverished Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island are progressing.
Meanwhile, negotiations are underway finalize a deal with Malaysia under which Australia will send 800 boatpeople to the Asian nation for processing, in exchange for 4,000 of its refugees for settlement.