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November 2, 2011


by refugeeactioncoalitionsydney

The death of six asylum seekers in Indonesian waters highlights the desperation of refugees in the region, and Australia’s real responsibilities towards them, according to advocates from the Refugee Action Coalition.

“Brendan O’Connor is completely wrong to say that the sinking shows Australia has to deter people from undertaking boat trips,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.
“It doesn’t matter how unseaworthy the boat is, refugees will always try to get to Australia because that is the only place where they can be safe,” Rintoul continued.

“Australia’s duty is to welcome asylum seekers here. We have resettled a minuscule number of refugees from our region. If Australia was willing to process asylum seekers in Indonesia and resettle refugees here, far fewer would need to get on boats. How many lives would have been saved tonight if we had offered permanent protection to a more generous number?

“The people on that boat were prepared to risk life and limb in their search for freedom and an end to persecution. In the last four months, 90 Hazaras have been the victims of targeted killing in Quetta, Pakistan. In Sri Lanka, Tamils are still fleeing persecution.

“We have an obligation not to turn our backs on them, and not to deter them. If the government is worried about people losing their lives at sea, they should decriminalize people-smuggling so that boats can come here openly without having to sneak into Australian waters in secret.

“We’ll hear a lot from government and opposition about the tragedy of lost lives. But no one is worrying about the loss of life or the permanent damage that people will suffer on Malaysia or Nauru, or about the six suicides in detention since September 2010. Any claim from the government that it cares about asylum seekers’ lives is hypocrisy.

“If the government and opposition really had a concern for asylum seekers’ lives they would institute the humane refugee policy Australia has needed for so long. They’d massively increase our refugee intake from the region, they’d end mandatory detention, decriminalize people-smuggling, remove offshore processing as a policy option, and do everything they could to support Indonesia and other nations in the region to provide better services.”

For more information, contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713

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