Thu, Nov 22, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Australia rejects migration pact, keeps hardline policy

Reuters, SYDNEY

Australia will not sign up to a UN migration agreement because it would compromise its hardline immigration policy and endanger national security, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said yesterday.

Australia joined the US, Israel and several Eastern European countries in rejecting the UN Global Compact for Migration, which asks signatories not to detain would-be migrants arbitrarily and to use detention only as a last resort.

That would jeopardize Australia’s national security, Morrison said.

“The global compact on migration would compromise Australia’s interest,” Morrison told 2GB Radio. “It doesn’t distinguish between those who illegally enter Australia and those who come the right way.”

Under Canberra’s tough immigration policy, which has bipartisan support, asylum seekers arriving by boat are told they will never be allowed to settle in Australia.

They are then detained in two detention centers on remote South Pacific islands until they are accepted by another nation or agree to return home.

The camps have been widely criticized by the UN and human rights groups.

“Australia is a textbook case of how not to treat boat arrivals, by sending them offshore to endure abysmal conditions for years and trying to shirk its international responsibilities onto less-developed countries,” Human Rights Watch Australia director Elaine Pearson said.

Australia’s rejection of the UN pact is the latest move to tighten migration through a series of policies that are likely to form a central element of Morrison’s bid for re-election in a national ballot that is to be held by May next year.

Opinion polls indicate his conservative government is on course for a landslide defeat.

Australia has an annual immigration cap of 190,000 places.

Morrison this week said that his government would likely reduce that threshold, a policy that is popular with voters.

A Fairfax-Ipsos poll published on Monday found that 45 percent of Australian voters wanted immigration reduced, while a little more than 20 percent wanted an increase.

Morrison’s government last month said that it would restrict new immigrants from living in Australia’s largest cities — Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane — for up to five years.

Although likely to win favor with voters, critics said that such a policy could lead to labor shortages.

Australia’s central bank governor in August said that an influx of new residents had helped underpin strong economic growth.

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