Community Sector Demands End to Offshore Processing
13 October 2011 at 2:49 pm
|Above: Arriving at Christmas Island Detention Centre. Flick Image: Some rights reserved by DIAC Images|
With the Gillard Government’s Migration Act changes facing almost certain defeat, Australian churches have joined welfare organisations and refugee advocacy groups in calling on the government to put an end to off-shore processing.
Western Australian National MP Tony Crook sunk the Gillard Governments asylum seeker Malaysia swap plan when he announced he would vote against the bill in the lower house.
Crook said sending asylum seekers to a country that is not a signatory to the United Nations refugee convention was a strong issue for him – describing the proposed people swap as a ‘serious humanitarian issue’.
It is good news for refugee advocates such CEO and Founder of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) Kon Karapanagiotidis, who had previously labeled the proposed changes to the migration act ‘the most dangerous law ever drafted on human rights in Australia’.
Karapanagiotidis says the bill poses a grave threat to what Australians hold dear as a democratic country – natural justice, the rule of law and the legal duty not to send people to danger who are fleeing persecution.
Political campaign group GetUp says with the Migration Act facing defeat, the Government now has no choice but to develop an effective onshore procession policy.
GetUp has today released a policy document developed with the Edmund Rice Centre, and has taken out full page newspaper advertising nationally in support of a policy designed to reduce boat arrivals. The paper and newspaper advertising campaign call for a doubling of the humanitarian visa intake, targeted at people within Australia’s region.
GetUp National Director Simon Sheikh says between 1 July 2009 and 28th February this year Australia granted 518 humanitarian visas to people in Malaysia – however not one went to someone from Afghanistan or Iraq – where the
majority of people arriving by boat have fled.
Sheikh says that by gradually increasing the humanitarian intake, and targeting that increase within the region in addition to increases in Australia’s diplomatic efforts, the number of boats departing Malaysia and Indonesia can be reduced.
The GetUp policy document – drafted with input from experts within the refugee sector – calls for the permanent expansion of Australia’s intake of UNHCR-designated refugees to at least 25,000, arguing that a targeted increase would reduce the incentive to travel by boat.
A major campaign backed by church groups, welfare bodies, businesses and other Not for Profit organisations to ‘cultivate a culture of welcome’ in Australia – has joined called for an end to offshore processing and mandatory detention of asylum seekers.
The ‘Welcome to Australia’ campaign is also calling for community groups around Australia to sign up as ‘Welcome to My Place’ communities – to help connect Australians with practical opportunities to model a policy of community welcome as an alternative to mandatory detention.
To kick-start the program and encourage other communities to get involved, Victoria’s 6000 member strong Crossway Baptist Church – along with Mission Australia and other national charities, are offering to provide community accommodation to 13 unaccompanied minors at no cost to the taxpayer. In addition, volunteers across Australia will be trained and mobilised to ‘open their hearts and homes’ to asylum seekers through connecting with new and existing service providers.
Brad Chilcott, Director of Welcome to Australia, explains, ‘Welcome to My Place is about demonstrating that not only are Australians not afraid of asylum seekers, we’re so committed to seeing them as real people – with real hopes, dreams, families and stories – that we’d invite them into our lives, into our homes, invite them to be our friends.’
To read the GetUp policy paper visit www.sensiblesolution.com.au
Sign up to the 'Welcome to Australia' website here www.welcometoaustralia.org.au