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April 26, 2011


by refugeeactioncoalitionsydney

Refugee advocates have condemned Chris Bowen’s proposed toughening of the character test for asylum seekers.

Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul described the announcement as a retreat to the discredited Temporary Protection Visa policy of the Howard government.

“We saw what TPVs did under the Howard government and Labor rightly got rid of them. It’s a severely retrograde step, a step backwards to the worst days of the Howard government,” Rintoul said.

Mr Rintoul said temporary visas would cut asylum-seekers off from their loved ones. “It potentially inflicts a life sentence on not just the asylum-seeker but their families, which is out of all proportion to any crime they may or may not be convicted of,” he said.

“It is scandalous that the government is contemplating more punitive laws,” said Mark Goudkamp, from the Refugee Action Coalition. “The only solution to the current crisis is for the mandatory detention policy itself to be abandoned altogether.”

“Imprisoning people the moment they ask for Australia’s help, and keeping them locked up for years makes events like last week’s at Villawood inevitable,” Goudkamp continued. “Australia is the only Western country to apply a mandatory detention policy. It is cruel, unnecessary and in no one’s best interests.”

“Talk of criminal acts by asylum seekers is completely misplaced. Anyone genuinely concerned about wrongdoing should be pointing the finger at the Australia’s mandatory detention policy, which inflicts protracted psychological and physical abuse on innocent people. There have been five suicides in Australia’s detention network since September.”

The government’s approach to refugee policy was strongly criticized at a Refugee Action Coalition rally outside Villawood Detention Centre yesterday, where three asylum seekers are continuing their roof-top protest. The rally was attended by 300 people demanding an end to cruelty to refugees, and was addressed by a wide range of speakers from medical, church, community and union groups.

Psychiatrist Dr Michael Dudley, chairperson of Suicide Prevention Australia, described the government’s imprisonment of more than 1000 children as ‘wilful, systemic child abuse’. Similar criticisms of mandatory detention were made by the Uniting Church’s Francis Milne and Jenny Diamond, head of the NSW Teachers’ Federation.

The Refugee Action Coalition is organizing a further protest outside Chris Bowen’s Fairfield Office this Friday.

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