NFPs Fight ‘Illegal’ Asylum Label
6 November 2013 at 3:11 pm
A coalition of 138 Not for Profit organisations has called on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to stop the Government’s use of the term “illegal maritime arrivals” for asylum seekers arriving by boat.
A joint letter, coordinated by the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) and supported by non-government agencies, faith-based organisations and community groups, has been sent to the Prime Minister.
RCOA chief executive officer Paul Power said the letter was developed in response to requests from concerned Australians wishing to see a joint response to last month’s decision of the Federal Government that Government staff and contractors must use the term “illegal maritime arrivals” when referring to asylum seekers arriving by boat.
“It is very clear, and senior members of the Government have acknowledged this, that it is not illegal to seek asylum,” Power said.
“The use of the word ‘illegal’ ignores the reality that, in legal and practical terms, the flight of asylum seekers to a place of safety is quite different to normal movements of migrants and that the intent of the Refugee Convention is to ensure that states do not block the paths of people escaping persecution.
“While language is important, the joint letter reflects a growing sense of disquiet among many Australians about the nation’s response to people seeking protection from persecution.
“It also reflects concerns that the official use of such dehumanising language to refer to highly vulnerable people has implications for Australia’s social cohesion.”
Power said the strong support from faith-based organisations was significant.
“Sixty-three organisations from four faith traditions have signed the letter and, I am sure, many other faith-based organisations would support its sentiments,” he said.
“Many Australians who have strong concern for the care of dispossessed people are deeply troubled by recent directions in Australian policy and particularly object to the use of inflammatory terms to refer to people who have little opportunity to defend themselves.”