6 Jun 2011

Opposition mounting to details of Malaysian swap deal

9:27 am on 6 June 2011

Internal opposition to the Australian government's intention to send unaccompanied child asylum seekers to Malaysia is mounting, with a federal Labor backbencher speaking against the plan.

Fremantle MP Melissa Parke, who worked as a senior United Nations lawyer for eight years, says she cannot back a deal that does not have the agency's support.

The ABC reports the United Nations refugee agency withdrew support for the deal after learning it involves sending unaccompanied minors offshore.

Details about the children became known on Friday night.

The federal government now says children will be assessed on an individual basis.

''As a former lawyer with the UN for eight years, including working with refugees, ... I would find it difficult to support an arrangement that was not supported by UNHCR or by UNICEF Australia,'' Ms Parke said.

Fourteen West Australian state Labor MPs have written an open letter voicing concerns about the plan.

Under the swap deal, Australia is to send 800 asylum seekers to be sent to Malaysia. In return it will accept 4000 registered refugees from Malaysia.