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July 13, 2010

AS EAST TIMOR VOTES NO, REFUGEE GROUPS CALL ON GILLARD TO SCRAP OFF SHORE PROCESSING

by refugeeactioncoalitionsydney

Media Release, July 13 2010

Refugee groups have welcomed East Timor’s unanimous parliamentary vote to reject Julia Gillard’s proposal to site a regional mega-detention centre in East Timor.

“We are now calling on Julia Gillard to scrap her regional processing proposal and to scrap off-shore processing of asylum seekers altogether. The regional proposal is nothing more than Gillard’s attempt to ape John Howard and prevent asylum seekers getting to safety in Australia,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“The Australian government efforts to continue to lean on East Timor, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea to accept a regional mega-detention centre are shameful. Hundreds of asylum seekers and UNHCR refugees, are already languishing in Australian-built detention centres in Indonesia. The Tamil asylum seekers, intercepted by the Indonesian navy at the request of Kevin Rudd last October are still in detention in shocking conditions in Tanjung Pinang.

“These asylum seekers are Australia’s responsibility. The most useful thing that Foreign Minister Stephen Smith could do in Indonesia is to arrange for them to be brought safely to Australia,” said Rintoul.

“Instead of competing with Tony Abbott’s racism to stop the boats, Julia Gillard could be living up to the Refugee Convention and welcoming asylum seekers at Australia’s borders.”

According to the Refugee Action Coalition, the focus on Gillard’s “East Timor solution” is also distracting attention from the worsening conditions in Australian detention centres.

“Immigration minister Chris Evans declared that under Labor, ‘detention would be a last resort.’ But over 500 children are now in immigration detention. Hundreds of Tamils have been waiting over a year to get an answer to their application. Afghan asylum seekers are in limbo in Curtin. The mental health problems caused by mandatory detention are growing day by day.

“Rather than talk about denying rights to asylum seekers by building more off-shore processing detention centres, Gillard should close Christmas Island and end the visa freeze on Afghan asylum applications.”

For more information contact Refugee Action Coalition, Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713

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