Vinnies Delivers Refugee Policy Alternative
18 December 2013 at 4:43 pm
The St Vincent de Paul Society National Council of Australia has launched its own Refugee Policy prior to Christmas, and has written to Minister Scott Morrison about its deep concern over the Federal Government’s treatment of people seeking asylum.
Chief Executive, Dr John Falzon, said that government policy had become an exercise in perfecting the art of cruelty.
“People seeking asylum in Australia have a right to be treated with humanity rather than being forced to endure the horror of being treated as non-persons,” Dr Falzon said.
“People who have already been recognised as legitimate refugees and are living in our community are suddenly having their temporary visas terminated, with no renewals. They then fall into a legal black hole – many receive no Centrelink benefits at all once they get cut off, and of course they are not allowed to get paid jobs. Some are not even permitted to volunteer with us, even though they would like to.
“One of the most appalling things we have heard is that some children of asylum seekers are being stopped from enrolling in public schools. Children are thus having their fundamental right to education breached,” Dr Falzon said.
National President of the St Vincent de Paul Society, Anthony Thornton, said that Australia was behaving immorally in its contempt for international human rights conventions to which we are a signatory.
“The recent axing of the Immigration Health Advisory Group is yet another example of the government’s blatant failure to fulfil its responsibilities.
“The St Vincent de Paul Society is doing all it can to help people who have come to our country in great need, but the total lack of government support for many families makes things very hard.
“The Society’s thoughts are especially with all those people who came here seeking protection and now will be spending this Christmas season locked away in detention centres, in Australia and offshore,” Thornton said.
The Vinnies policy says: “The Society will never support policies imposing sanctions on asylum seekers within Australia in order to deter future asylum seekers from coming here. This is an unjustifiable breach of human rights.
“The Society recognises that a regional response to coping with the flow of asylum seekers could reduce the need for asylum seekers to risk the hazardous open sea voyage to Australia. The Society therefore supports efforts to establish such responses in transit countries, but only if those states can provide:
• legal protection to asylum seekers;
• humane living conditions and work rights: compliance with international law obligations and human rights standards;
• special provisions for unaccompanied minors and other highly vulnerable asylum seekers; and
• non-refoulement: that is, an asylum seeker will not be returned to the state in which they were persecuted.”
On the topic of mandatory detention the policy says: “The Society recognises Australia’s right to control those entering its territory and that there may be a need to briefly detain asylum seekers in order to assess whether they pose a risk to the Australian community.
"However, prolonged or indefinite detention constitutes a form of punishment and is known to traumatise asylum seekers."
The Society advocates that any mandatory detention:
• is located on Australian territory and not remote from community support or legal resources; and
• is strictly limited to the time required to assess asylum seekers' health and security status. Unless evidence is presented in particular cases to support continuing detention, they should not be detained further and then only as a last resort.