July 25 - Malaysia and Australia to sign a pact to swap thousands of boatpeople. Julie Noce, reports.
Australia and Malaysia have signed an agreement to swap asylum seekers in a plan some are calling controversial. Australia's Immigration Minister and the Malaysian Minster of Home Affairs signed the pact during a ceremony in Kuala Lampur Monday. Under the agreement, Australia will send 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia, and Malaysia will send 4,000 asylum seekers to Australia-- all over the next four years. Human rights groups say the refugees being sent to Malaysia will face the country's strict punishments for illegal entry that include caning. But both ministers reassured the public that returning refugees in Malaysia would be treated with dignity and would not be harmed. The issue of asylum seekers is a hot political topic in Australia, although United Nations figures show the country has under point-five percent of the world's asylum seekers-- totaling about 6-thousand refugees in detention. Malaysia, on the other hand, has upwards of 93-thousand refugees. Julie Noce, Reuters