Australia to send newest asylum seekers offshore

SYDNEY, May 14, 2011 (AFP) – The latest boatload of suspected asylum seekers to arrive in Australia will be sent to another country for processing, the government said Saturday as it implements its controversial new policy. Immigration Minister Chris Bowen would not say where the 32 newest arrivals who landed in Australian waters late Friday would be sent, but acknowledged Australia had struck a deal with Malaysia on taking boatpeople.

“They will be removed to a third country in line with the regional arrangements we are entering into across our region,” Bowen told reporters.

A week ago Australia announced changes to its immigration policy designed to break people-smuggling and stem the wave of boats carrying asylum seekers to its shores.

Under the changes, Australia will send 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia for processing and in return Canberra will accept 4,000 people already assessed to be refugees from Malaysia for resettlement over four years.

Australia is also in negotiations with its impoverished northern neighbour Papua New Guinea on opening an immigration processing centre, but no deal has yet been finalised.

Bowen warned that anyone arriving by boat in Australia could no longer assu