Vietnam and Australia strike deal to formalize illegal migrant deportation

By VnExpress   December 13, 2016 | 12:03 am PT
Vietnam and Australia strike deal to formalize illegal migrant deportation
Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton meets Vietnam's Minister of Public Security Colonel General To Lam in Canberra. Photo by Vietnam News Agency.
Australia continues to take a firm stance on its tough and controversial border protection policies.

Vietnam and Australia have signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which will provide a formal framework for the return of Vietnamese citizens with no legal right to enter or remain in Australia, including those intercepted at sea.

The arrangement, which embodies both countries' efforts to prevent asylum seekers from taking dangerous boat journeys in an attempt to illegally migrate, was signed by Australian Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton and Vietnamese Minister of Public Security Colonel General To Lam in Canberra yesterday.

Dutton said this is a significant milestone in Australia's bilateral relationship with Vietnam and an important part of broader efforts to tackle human trafficking and counter irregular migration in the region.

"The [Autralian] Coalition Government is committed to protecting our borders, stamping out people smuggling and preventing people risking their lives at sea," said Dutton in a media statement.

The statement said both countries look forward to deepening the bilateral immigration and border protection relationship, which is underpinned by shared interests in facilitating regular trade and migration in the region. Cooperation currently includes regular dialogue, training and capacity building initiatives.

According to the statement, since 2015, the Australian and Vietnamese governments have worked together to return 113 Vietnamese citizens from three vessels intercepted by the Australian Border Force under Operation Sovereign Borders.

"Australia's borders are stronger than ever and our tough border protection policies are here to stay," said Dutton.

Last year, Australia implemented its controversial “Stop the Boats” policy, which sparked domestic protests and drew intense criticism from human rights organizations around the world.

Under the policy, any smugglers’ vessels nearing Australian shores are sent away with a tough warning that no asylum seeker who tries to reach Australia by boat will ever call the country home. Instead, Australia sends would-be immigrants to offshore camps on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island and the tiny Pacific island nation of Nauru.

Officials say the policy is intended to save lives by discouraging risky refugee voyages on the high seas.

Australia grants refugee visas to just under 14,000 people each year under various international agreements. Opinion polls suggest that the strict border control measures and the offshore processing of asylum seekers have broad public support in Australia, a country where about a quarter of the population was born overseas.

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