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January 9, 2012

Refugee activists bring in the New Year with protest at Chris Bowen’s office

by refugeeactioncoalitionsydney

Neither Malaysia nor Nauru; Lift the refugee quota, without conditions

Tuesday 10 January, 1.00-2.30pm, 398 Hamilton Rd, Fairfield West

Speakers include: Ian Rintoul (RAC), Jenny Haines (Labor for Refugees), Senator Lee Rhiannon (Greens, NSW), Hadi Hosseini and Iraj Moghadam (recently arrived refugees)

The refugee rights movement is appalled that Immigration Minister Chris Bowen responded to the most recent boat tragedy that saw 200 people drown by escalating his relentless push for the failed policy of offshore processing.

“Not only is Mr Bowen continuing to flog the Gillard government’s ‘Malaysia Solution’ dead horse, he is bending over backwards to win the Liberals’ support in parliament for offshore processing”, said Mark Goudkamp from the Refugee Action Coalition.

“Yet even Labor’s offer to re-open detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island—hallmarks of John Howard’s ‘Pacific Solution’ which caused so much needless misery and suffering for people eventually found to be refugees—has been rejected by Tony Abbott. In the lead up to the re-opening of Parliament, one wonders how much lower Bowen can go in seeking the Liberals’ support for offshore processing.

“It’s incredible that Nauru is still being considered. The Nauruan government says that one of the former detention centres is now a primary school. Neither Abbott, nor now it seems Bowen, are perturbed by uprooting these Nauruan kids in so that Australia can again dump asylum seekers there.

“Julia Gillard should recall what she, as Shadow Immigration Minister, said in 2002: ‘The Pacific Solution is an expensive failure…Stay tuned for the removal of the multi-million-dollar a day naval blockade of asylum-seekers and the closure of the multi-million-dollar a day camps on Nauru and Manus Island.’

Ian Rintoul from RAC said: “It is completely mistaken to think that you can ultimately uphold the rights of refugees by systematically undermining them by sending asylum seekers to Malaysia or Nauru.

“During the years of John Howard’s Pacific Solution, asylum seekers still took boats to to Australia. The UNHCR estimates that around 1600 asylum seekers tried to get to Australia but were diverted to Nauru—plus another unknown number on boats were turned around or towed back.

“There has always been a humanitarian policy option, but Gillard and Abbott are too concerned with domestic politicking at refugees’ expense. A number of refugee advocacy groups, including the Refugee Action Coalition and Labor for Refugees and The Greens have advocated processing asylum seekers in Indonesia and guaranteeing refugee re-settlement from there. If this happened far fewer people would need to get on a boat.

“And if people-smuggling was decriminalised, 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.”

But the Australian government has turned its back on refugees in Indonesia. Shamefully, despite promises of resettlement, 40 Tamil refugees stranded in Indonesia since October 2009 have been rejected by Australia and will be holding a protest in Medan next week. “We are calling on the Minister to make good the Labor government’s promises to the Merak Tamils and bring them to Australia,” said Rintoul.

For more information, call Ian Rintoul 0417275713 or Mark Goudkamp 0422078376

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