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December 22, 2011


by refugeeactioncoalitionsydney

“Robert Manne’s argument that the only alternative is off-shore processing in Nauru is simply wrong. Any policy that starts with the idea of stopping the boats can only lead to a conclusion that is morally and politically flawed.

“Robert Manne’s arguments are of a piece with those of Gillard and Abbott which both violate the rights of asylum seekers and foster anti-refugee sentiments in Australian society,” said Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Coalition.

“Firstly, it is mistaken to think that you can ultimately uphold the rights of refugees by systematically undermining them by sending asylum seekers to Malaysia or Nauru.

“Secondly, for people to be processed in Nauru, they have to get on a boat and try to get to Australia. That much was obvious under Howard’s Pacific Solution. Manne himself is less than honest with the figures. The UNHCR estimates during the years of the Pacific Solution, around 1600 asylum seekers tried to get to Australia but were diverted to Nauru plus another unknown number on boats that were turned around or towed back.

“There has always been a humanitarian policy option, but neither Gillard nor Abbott is interested in that. They are too concerned with domestic politicking at refugees’ expense.

“A number of refugee advocate groups, including the Refugee Action Coalition and Labor for Refugees have advocated an obvious alternative solution: to process asylum seekers in Indonesia and guarantee re-settlement of refugees from Indonesia. If this happened far fewer people would need to get on a boat.

“If people-smuggling was decriminalized, boats could be prepared in the open. They could be equipped with life-jackets. They could inform the authorities when they were ready to sail, so they could be tracked or even escorted.

“Chris Bowen says he wants to raise the humanitarian intake to 20,000 a year. So he should, without conditions. This number would easily accommodate all the Indonesian UNHCR mandated refugees and all those who have registered with UNHCR.

“Kevin Rudd had the opportunity to introduce a humanitarian policy in 2007 but opted to keep Howard’s policies of mandatory detention and off-shore processing in place. Now, Chris Bowen is begging Tony Abbott to join an unholy alliance to push asylum seekers to third countries.

“There are policies that will both save lives and uphold the rights of asylum seekers. But our politicians are too busy thinking about saving their own political skins. That is a seriously morally falwed endeavour and Robert Manne shouldn’t be helping them.”

For more information contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713

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