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Rwandan Nationals Reach Australia Seeking Asylum After Hazardous Voyage

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Mbeki edmond

May 11, 2024

Citizen from Rwanda  A country declared safe are also seeking asylum

Australia’s implementation of offshore processing has been fraught with issues. The practice, which has cost over A$10 billion and resulted in multiple deaths due to various causes including violence and medical neglect, has been repeatedly condemned by international bodies as a violation of human rights standards. The policy's efficacy is also debated; initial years saw a surge in arrivals, contradicting the intended deterrent effect.
The five men were found on Saibai Island (pictured), which is four kilometres from the Papua New Guinea mainland

As the UK government intensifies efforts to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, a contrasting narrative unfolds in Australia where a group of Rwandan nationals has sought asylum after a harrowing journey. The five men embarked on an unconventional trip that began by securing visas upon arrival in Jakarta, Indonesia. They then traversed the vast distance to Papua province, crossed into Papua New Guinea (PNG), and ultimately reached Australia’s remote Saibai Island by dinghy.


Saibai Island, a mere 4km from PNG’s mainland, is a focal point for traditional activities between Indigenous Australians and PNG nationals, who navigate the waters freely. However, such cross-border movement is usually limited to locals, making the arrival of the Rwandans a rare and conspicuous event. They were discovered by local hunters in a mangrove swamp, a known crocodile habitat.


Details of the asylum claims made by the Rwandans remain undisclosed, and their fate hangs in balance. Without PNG's consent to accept them back under conditions that prevent persecution, they risk being sent to Australia's controversial offshore detention center in Nauru. This facility is part of a contentious policy that Australia once championed and the UK is now considering for its own use, despite widespread criticism.


The UK Home Office is pursuing a similar strategy, proposing to send asylum seekers to Rwanda. Yet, an impact assessment from the department admits the plan’s novelty and untested nature, leaving its potential effectiveness in doubt. Critics, including Jana Favero of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in Melbourne, denounce the policy as inhumane, pointing to the irony of Rwandans fleeing to Australia even as the UK seeks to send asylum seekers in the opposite direction.


Australia’s implementation of offshore processing has been fraught with issues. The practice, which has cost over A$10 billion and resulted in multiple deaths due to various causes including violence and medical neglect, has been repeatedly condemned by international bodies as a violation of human rights standards. The policy's efficacy is also debated; initial years saw a surge in arrivals, contradicting the intended deterrent effect.


Madeline Gleeson, a senior research fellow at the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, argues that the Australian model, which the UK aims to replicate, has proven ineffective. She emphasizes the necessity for individualized risk assessments and efficient asylum processing systems to truly address the needs of those seeking refuge.


As discussions continue, the international community watches closely. The situation of the Rwandans in Australia serves as a poignant reminder of the ongoing global refugee crisis and the complex interplay of policies intended to manage it.

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