Asylum Seekers Issue Needs Regional Approach
28 July 2010 at 12:48 pm
International aid agency Oxfam says a comprehensive regional approach to asylum seekers must be adopted by whoever wins the Federal Election if there is to be any hope of truly moving forward on this complicated issue.
Releasing its briefing paper, ‘Asylum Seekers – the way forward’ today, Oxfam says asylum seeker policy must not be allowed to become about shifting a difficult political issue to poorer countries, with policies focused on offshore processing centres that were akin to a political too hard basket.
Oxfam Executive Director Andrew Hewett says a comprehensive regional approach could potentially include a regional processing centre, if done properly.
Hewett says a genuine regional protection framework could be the key to unlocking a difficult political and humanitarian problem.
He says a regional processing centre as part of a broader regional protection framework could be used to help strengthen the processing of asylum claims within the region and this would help provide an alternative to making the long and dangerous boat journey to Australia.
He says asylum seekers who make it to Australia should have their claims processed in Australia, and not be transferred offshore, thus shifting a politically difficult situation to poorer countries already struggling to provide essential services to their existing population.
The briefing paper, provided to both the Government and the Opposition, recommends a number of key elements as part of a comprehensive regional approach:
- An effective regional protection framework that involves countries of origin, transit and destination and that is sanctioned by the UNHCR;
- Helping to give all asylum seekers the chance to have their claims fairly and swiftly assessed, no matter what country they are in;
- Supporting developing countries in our region with properly targeted aid, so that they can house and support asylum seekers while they wait for their claims to be processed;
- Upholding Australia’s international commitments and treating asylum seekers in Australia humanely; and
- Strong standards for any regional processing centre that include a humane environment, quick, fair and transparent processing, and ensure that the centre is in line with the needs of the host country.
Hewett says effectively targeted aid initiatives could include:
- Tackling the causes of asylum seekers’ flight through conflict prevention, peace building and post-conflict recovery initiatives;-
- Strengthening the ability of other countries to provide asylum seekers with fair and speedy assessments of their claims; and
- Supporting the establishment of humane reception arrangements for asylum seekers.
He says Oxfam’s paper advocates common sense policies – although not all of them politically expedient – and asks for humanity from politicians as each political party sets out their vision for Australia.
The Liberal National Coalition has announced that it has had preliminary and informal discussions with the Foreign Minister for Nauru, Dr Kieren Keke in Brisbane to discuss the potential for reopening the Australian offshore processing centre on Nauru.
Dr Keke confirmed that the current President of Nauru has the power to conclude an agreement with Australia under their Constitution with the Government operating in caretaker mode.