Australian Prime Minister Supports New Plan on Refugees
Prime Minister Julia Gillard of Australia endorsed a set of sweeping changes to immigration policy on Monday that would increase the number of refugees the country accepts by nearly half while reopening remote offshore detention centers that have been criticized by human rights groups as inhumane and ineffective.
Ms. Gillard made the announcement after an expert panel convened by the government reported on ways to stem the influx of refugees to Australia. Thousands of people try to reach the country each year on rickety, overcrowded vessels, leading to a growing number of accidents at sea that have killed more than 600 people since late 2009. Around 90 asylum seekers are believed to have died in June when their boat capsized south of Java, Indonesia, prompting renewed calls for government intervention.
The panel’s report called for immediately increasing the number of refugees allowed to take up residence in Australia to 20,000 from 13,700, and for reopening detention centers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea to hold refugees awaiting entry, a practice that was largely abandoned in 2007 when Ms. Gillard’s Labor Party came to power.