The “Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers Report” confirms that 90% of people travelling to Australia by boat seeking asylum are found to be legitimate refugees, once they are actually assessed.
The political hysteria about “boat people” misses that fact.
These are desperate people seeking to flee persecution.
Australia is, quite rightly, a signatory to the International Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.
The current debate ignores the humanity of the plight of these people.
Australia has a duty to process asylum seeker claims. Warehousing asylum seekers in Nauru and Manus Island fails to protect their human rights. It makes accessing legal representation very difficult. The LIV joins with the Law Council of Australia (LCA)
in expressing disappointment at a number of recommendations of the expert panel on asylum seekers. We will host a film fundraiser and panel discussion
on the future of refugee policy next week (Thursday 30 August, 6pm).
Respect for human dignity, not political expediency, should be key
In our submission
to the expert panel on asylum seekers, we put forward that an effective and sustainable approach to asylum seekers must be based on respect for human dignity and not on political expediency.
We said: “Any policy options which seek to de-humanise asylum seekers or which effectively punish individual asylum seekers with the aim of general deterrence must be rejected”.
Disappointingly, the report recommended offshore processing as part of a suite of measures to deter people from trying to get to Australia by boat, and that is what the government rushed to implement into law, with bipartisan support.
The government’s aim for short to medium term policies is to focus on how best to prevent asylum seekers risking their lives by travelling to Australia by boat, while a long term regional solution is found.
But the offshore processing arrangements made possible by last week’s amendment to the Migration Act are only triggered when a boat is intercepted.
Further, offshore processing will only deter people from travelling to Australia by boat if conditions of offshore detention, and processing times, are worse than in Indonesia, where most asylum seekers depart on boats to Australia. Yet there are currently no real avenues to seek protection in Australia for the thousands of asylum seekers currently in Indonesia and other countries in our region.
We welcome the government’s announcement yesterday to increase Australia’s humanitarian program to 20,000 places in 2012-13, in line with the recommendation of the Expert Panel. The government’s immediate measure, to resettle an additional 400 refugees from Indonesia, will not be sufficient, however, to stop people getting on boats. The government must increase resettlement form our region to create a ‘regular migration option’ for otherwise desperate people.
Suggested short and medium term action
We believe a more appropriate response would be to:
Refugees’ rights compromised
Provide access to temporary visas to travel to Australia – to enable people to enter and remain in Australia for the limited purpose of making protection claims
Decouple the link between the offshore Refugee and Humanitarian program and onshore protection programs, so that onshore arrivals do not reduce the number of visa places for refugee and humanitarian entrants to reunite with family members
Reform the family migration program, to allow refugees living in Australia to sponsor their families as migrants. This would reduce the burden from offshore humanitarian programs
Responding to the needs of refugees and asylum seekers is one of the most vexed political issues facing our leaders at present, with boat arrivals increasing on a weekly basis. It is unacceptable that in the effort to secure bipartisan support for action aimed at stopping people losing their lives on perilous boat journeys, we have compromised their rights by introducing offshore processing.
This is an issue that demands repeated examination and discussion to reach the best outcome, which in the long-term can only lie in a regional protection framework.
Come and hear more about the issue
I am looking forward to hearing from experts in the field at our film night and panel discussion next Thursday 30 August.
Dr Savitri Taylor from LaTrobe University; Jessie Taylor, barrister and recent subject of an ABC Australian Story profile and Paul Power, from the Refugee Council of Australia will lead the audience through the issues. We will also have a firsthand look at what turns a person into a boat person through the documentary made by Jessie Taylor and Ali Reza Sadiqi Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.
$10 from each ticket purchased for the event will be donated to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.
I would like to commend our Administrative and Human Rights lawyers for their important work on the submission to the expert panel.
The fight to protect the rights of asylum seekers must continue as we all watch how the government implements its new and imperfect policy.
What more can we do to protect the rights of asylum seekers?