Sending Refugees to a Safe Third Country

Image from The Big Picture

Australia has “boat people” issues that far exceed Canada’s.  According to The Economist, in 2010 134 boats carrying 6,535 refugee-claimants landed off the shores of Australia.  The Australian government has introduced many policies to reduce those numbers, including the controversial detention of most sea-arrival refugee claimants on Christmas Island.

Another potential policy, which was recently struck down by the High Court of Australia, was to exchange certain refugee claimants with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees recognized refugees in Malaysia.   Under the arrangement, Australia would send 800 seaborne asylum-seekers to join tens-of-thousands of others currently queuing in Malaysia to have their refugee claims heard by the UNHCR.  In return, Malaysia would be allowed to send 4,000 people who the UNHCR had recognized as being refugees, and who were awaiting resettlement in a third country, to Australia.

On August 31, 2011, the High Court of Australia held that the plan was invalid.   The main reason was because Malaysia is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, and is therefore not legally bound to provide the access and protections required by the convention.

Ignoring the issue of whether such a swapping proposal would be constitutional in Canada, I wonder what readers think of this approach to processing refugee claimants.

Suppose that Canada were to enter into a swapping agreement with a third-party country that was a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention.

Would you support a policy whereby Canada would transfer refugee claimants to the third party to be processed by the UNHCR, and in exchange the UNHCR would send 1-4 times that many people to Canada?