NFPs Call on Govt to Stand Up for Australian Values in Wake of Trump’s Muslim Ban
31 January 2017 at 5:22 pm
Not for profits are calling on the federal government to stand up for Australian values and make a “stronger commitment” to fulfil its human rights obligations in the wake of Donald Trump’s controversial immigration ban.
Australian Association of Social Workers president, Professor Karen Healy AM, said Australia should demonstrate its opposition by increasing its intake of Syrian and Iraqi refugees.
“President Trump’s discriminatory approach to dealing with the Syrian humanitarian crisis will have devastating and catastrophic consequences for innocent people fleeing war-torn countries,” Healy said.
“Every human being has the right to dignity and freedom from intimidation and persecution and the Australian government needs to take immediate action to protect these most fundamental of rights.
“The Turnbull government must demonstrate to the world that as Australians we are opposed to Trump’s deeply misguided approach, which is based on ignorance and fear, by increasing our refugee resettlement program.”
Her comments were echoed by Save the Children Australia CEO Paul Ronalds, who told Pro Bono News Prime Minister Turnbull should “stand up for the Australian values of fairness and equality” by joining other world leaders in condemning Trump’s executive order.
“Mr Turnbull claims to be committed to multiculturalism, but that requires sticking up to allies when they unfairly discriminate against people based on their race or religion,” Ronalds said.
“It is up to everybody – but particularly our leaders – to stand up for those who are being unfairly targeted, whether within our borders or without.
“The world is facing its largest crisis of displaced people since World War II, with more than 65 million people forced to flee their homes. More than half of all refugees are children, whose only chance for survival and a better future relies on access to safety.
“We all have a moral obligation to help and each country must contribute to sharing the burden.”
It comes after Trump signed an executive order that bans travel for seven majority Muslim countries – Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, Sudan, Libya and Yemen – for 90 days, suspends all refugee admissions for 120 days with case-by-case exceptions and suspends entry of Syrian refugees indefinitely.
The move has sparked protests across America with thousands of people converging on airports and public spaces.
The situation was further escalated on Tuesday after Trump sacked acting Attorney-General Sally Yates after she directed Justice Department attorneys not to defend the ban.
However Malcolm Turnbull has refused to comment on the ban, labelling it the “domestic policy” of another country.
Speaking on Tuesday he confirmed the US had promised to exempt Australians with dual nationality from the temporary visa ban.
But he maintained it was not in the “national interest” for him to comment on the policy.
“What is important for me to do as Australian prime minister, is to deliver for Australians,” Turnbull said.
“When I have frank advice to give to an American president, I give it in private as good friends do – as wise prime ministers do to ensure they are best able to protect Australia and Australia’s best interests.”
But Healy said it was “vital” politicians show global leadership.
She said next year will be 50 years since the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, yet the current situation shows “we still have a long way to go” to ensure everyone is afforded basic human rights.
“Australia has benefitted greatly from migration and the influx of refugees, especially since the 1940s. This diversity has enriched our country and serves as an example to the world,” Healy said.
“In this current political climate of increasing intolerance and division, it is vital our politicians show global leadership by implementing a more compassionate approach to dealing with this humanitarian crisis.”
Asylum Seeker Resource Centre CEO and founder Kon Karapanagiotidis OAM told Pro Bono News that Australia should be reacting with “absolute outrage”.
“I think what’s been most disturbing and disappointing has been, not just the dead silence of our prime minister, but the complicitness and support from our prime minister, from Morrison, from Dutton, from Bishop, all of them in fact endorsing it,” Karapanagiotidis said.
“We are seeing policies not seen since the 1940s rooted in ideas that are deeply racist, white supremacist and fascist, and any person of conscious and decency and morality is condemning them and so I think what is so disturbing is the fact that we’re seeing the absence of any leadership from our Australian government, and our sitting prime minister is in fact supporting and condoning the vilification of Muslim people globally through the Muslim ban and the continued vilification of refugees.
“I am just absolutely appalled.
“It is really shocking in particular at a time when we are facing the greatest global humanitarian crisis since the holocaust and we need leadership and we need to return to values.”
Karapanagiotidis, who put a call out on social media offering free legal help to anyone in Australia affected by the ban, said the order had nothing to do with national security.
“Not one refugee from any of the countries banned has killed an American citizen through an act of terrorism,” he said.
“In fact all the countries not banned are the only ones that have but they are all the places that Donald Trump has hotels.
“So we know this is about pandering to xenophobia, racism and fear to hold and win and reinforce your power, but we need to go back to what are our values.
“Look at the United States which is about religious freedom and freedom and democracy, and look at Australia which is a pluralist, multicultural, inclusive welcoming country, how do these actions in any way reconcile with the actions we have as Australians around decency, morality, compassion, inclusion, kindness, multiculturalism. They don’t.”
He said people had been left very distressed by the ban.
“I had one person who… was here visiting family, it’s Christmas time, lots of people come to visit their family, [he was] a resident of the United States, has a home in the United States and suddenly you’re facing this incredible situation where they are not going to be able to go home.
“And just think about how distressing and how absurd that is, that you have come to visit your family and like we all are when we go on holiday, you’re ready to go back home to your country… and suddenly you’re blocked, you are absolutely banned.
“They were in a state of deep shock. [They] couldn’t believe this was happening.
“And the sense of relief was just palpable, it was just incredible when i was able to call them this morning and say actually the government has brokered a deal.
“But whilst it is great for our Australian citizens, think about how many people have been locked out permanently and what it means.”
He said it was time to see “significantly more leadership” and an increase in the number of refugees being allowed into Australia.
“We want to see our government take the leadership when America closes it’s doors in Syria. Follow the leadership of Trudeau and take more Syrian refugees, there’s no reason this government couldn’t commit to taking at least 20,000 Syrian refugees in the coming financial year,” he said.
“We want to see far greater leadership, we want to see the people in Manus and Nauru brought to safety.
“This is an incredible opportunity to do that and while you’ve got Bill Shorten saying all the right things, he’s not backing anything up with policy and that’s really what we want to see from the ALP as well.”
It comes as shadow minister for immigration Shayne Neumann has criticised the Turnbull government for being unable to answer “basic questions” about how a deal to resettle refugees held on Manus Island and Nauru will work now.
Turnbull confirmed Australia had secured Trump’s agreement to honour the deal which was negotiated under the Obama administration.
But Neumann said there were too many “unanswered questions” and too many refugees “once again left in limbo.”
“Labor supports third-country resettlement of refugees in offshore detention and is pleased the agreement with the United States will be honoured. But the government has been silent on the details of this arrangement, and how recent decisions of the US administration may impact on it,” Neumann said.
“There are refugees on Manus Island and Nauru from nations that are currently banned from entering the United States. Has the prime minister sought assurances that they will be considered outside the executive order or will they be considered and then excluded based on their country of origin?”