Asylum seekers sit on a fisherman's boat after they were rescued when their boat, headed to Christmas Island in Australia, sunk off Sunda straits, in Indonesia's Banten province on May 24, 2011.  

© 2011 Reuters

(Washington, DC) – The Australian High Court ruled on August 31, 2011, that the Australia-Malaysia Transfer and Resettlement Arrangement is invalid and that any attempt to remove these asylum seekers to Malaysia would be unlawful, Human Rights Watch said today. Under the transfer and resettlement arrangement, Australia would have sent to Malaysia 800 asylum seekers who came to Australia by boat in exchange for resettling 4,000 refugees from Malaysia.

The ruling forbids Australia from sending asylum seekers to Malaysia, which has not ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention and has no refugee law or asylum procedures. The Refugee Convention has been ratified by 145 countries.

“The court knows a dirty deal when it sees one,” said Bill Frelick, Refugee Program director at Human Rights Watch. “The Australian High Court’s ruling decisively rejects an ill-conceived government plan that would violate the rights of asylum seekers in Australia. The Australian government should now live up to its own responsibilities to decide the claims of asylum seekers on its territory.”