För att minska antalet asylsökande som kommer med båt till Australien har den socialdemokratiska regeringen ingått ett avtal med Malaysia, där många av båtarna avseglar från. Avtalet innebär att Australien överlämnar 800 asylsökande till Malaysia och tar emot 4000 erkända flyktingar som befinner sig i läger i Malaysia. Genom denna åtgärd räknar regeringen i Australien med att antalet båtflyktingar därifrån minskar från 6000 till 750 per år.
Labor is so confident its refugee swap with Malaysia is going to slow the flow of boats that it has budgeted for the arrival of only 750 asylum-seekers next financial year, despite more than 6000 having arrived last year.
Speaking in a Senate estimates hearing yesterday, Mr Metcalfe said the prediction of 750 boatpeople for 2011-12 had been made because "the government believes its policy will work".
He was referring to the latest announcements by Labor that involves a five-for-one refugee swap with Malaysia and the possible reopening of an offshore processing centre on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island.
Avtalet har fått kritik av Navi Pillay, FN:s högkommissarie för mänskliga rättigheter, som menar att "flyktingbytet" är rasistiskt. Han kritiserar också Australiens politik att frihetsberöva asylsökande.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay discussed the agreement Wednesday with Prime Minister Julia Gillard at the end of a six-day visit to Australia to examine major human rights issues.
Pillay criticized Australia's treatment of asylum seekers, including the policy of holding them in immigration detention centers for months while their applications for refugee visas are assessed.
This arbitrary policy was partially explained by the backgrounds of asylum seekers who invariably are not white, western or European, said Pillay, a South African lawyer.
She called on Australian lawmakers to "break this ingrained political habit of demonizing asylum seekers.
"There is a racial discriminatory element here which I see as rather inhumane treatment of people judged by their differences in color, religion and so on," Pillay told reporters in Canberra before leaving Australia.
UNHCR är dock positiva till lösningen.
But UN High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman Richard Toll believes any problems can be overcome.
"It is our hope and expectation that appropriate human rights and protection measures are built into those agreements, so that we're looking at a better and new path for dealing with people in the region, rather than looking backwards at some of the poor practices and difficulties of the past," he said.