Turnbacks best deterrent: IOM Chief

February 01, 2019

Australia’s boat turnback policy has been the single “biggest deterrent” to asylum-seekers risking their lives at sea, says the out­going Indonesia country chief of the International Organisation for Migration.

The Conservative Party will always fight for strong border protection policies and the current turnback policy has saved countless lives.

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The Australian reports, Mark Getchell, who helped negotiate the agreement under which Canberra has largely funded the agency’s support for asylum­-seekers and refugees in Indonesia in return for authorit­ies there intercepting boats, has also warned that changes to Australia’s immigration policy will encourage people-smugglers to resume their trade.

“What Australia is making it harder to do is to risk your life to seek asylum,’’ he said. “You don’t have to do that. You can seek asylu­m here. No one wants to spend the money on people-smugglers to get in a boat and end up in the same place they started.”

But, Mr Getchell added, people­-smugglers and asylum-seekers in Indonesia were “watching politics in Australia” for signs of a policy softening.

“The feedback from various corners is that people-smugglers are talking to people,” he said.

“They’re testing the water to see if people are thinking about it or not. The first successful boat to reach Australian shores will help people-smugglers convince peopl­e they can make it now.”

The comments — made days after the UN’s refugee agency Indone­sia chief Thomas Vargas caused outrage among Australians when he said boat turnbacks “don’t work” because they pushed people into harm’s way and that his agency would continue to lobby to end the practice — highlight philosophical differences between the UN and its related organisation.

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