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July 7, 2010

STILL WAITING FOR THE AUSTRALIAN SOLUTION: LABOR MUST ABANDON OFF-SHORE PROCESSING. GILLARD COMPROMISES INDEPENDENT REFUGEE ASSESSMENT

by refugeeactioncoalitionsydney

Media Release July 7, 2010

Refugee groups have condemned Julia Gillard’s new direction for the processing of asylum seekers. Nothing in her speech addressed the immediate issues of the rights of asylum seekers languishing in detention in Australia. And her announcement of a regional processing centre in East Timor is another attempt by an Australian Prime Minister to avoid Australia meeting its obligations under the Refugee Convention by leaning on an impoverished regional neighbour.

“Hundreds of children are in detention. Thousands of asylum seekers remain in detention in Christmas Island, Darwin and Curtin. They are already becoming ‘factories for mental illness’ as the suicide and self harm incidents become weekly if not daily events,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“Even worse perhaps, was Gillard’s attempt to further subvert the already questionable independence of off-shore processing, by declaring that it is highly likely that future Sri Lankan and Afghan refugee claims will be rejected.”

Gillard’s announcement that she would seek to create a regional processing centre in East Timor is another attempt by an Australian Prime Minister to avoid Australia meeting its obligations under the Refugee Convention.

“Gillard’s ‘East Timor solution’ is nothing more than a version of the Pacific Solution. It is the final step that commits a Gillard Labor government to the full suite of Howard’s anti-refugee policies – mandatory detention, off-shore processing and now the East Timor solution,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“Julia Gillard’s announcement has taken refugee policy backwards, not forward. We are now back to Howard. Rather than raising the level of debate, she resorted to using to the same dog whistle to xenophobia, demonising refugees by linking border protection and people smuggling to asylum seekers.

“Gillard’s East Timor solution will fail for the same reasons that Howard’s Pacific Solution failed. Third re-settlement countries are not going to accept refugees that are so obviously Australia’s responsibility.

“It is also highly unlikely that East Timor’s government would be willing to adopt Australia’s abusive model of detention.

“While ending the visa freeze on processing Sri Lankan asylum claims is welcome, hundreds of Tamils have been waiting for up to a year and longer for answers to their visa claims. And her speech was peppered with threats of deportation.

“Julia Gillard has dished up a proposal that is focussed on the federal election, aimed at competing with Tony Abbott to be ‘tough on asylum seekers’. We are still waiting for an Australian humanitarian solution for refugees,” said Rintoul.

For more information contact Ian Rintoul, mob 0417 275 713.

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