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June 27, 2012


by refugeeactioncoalitionsydney

Refugee groups have condemned the Gillard government’s move to introduce Rob Oakeshott’s bill into Parliament this afternoon as being a piece of shabby political theatre.

“Julia Gillard is trying to look like she is doing something about the deaths of asylum seekers by pushing through a Bill that would expel asylum seekers to limbo in Malaysia. Worse, she has even promised to expel some to Nauru just for good measure, and review the re-introduction of temporary protection visas – just to see if she can sucker Coalition MPs into voting for the Bill.

“The Coalition’s amendments are designed to ensure asylum seekers are expelled to Nauru. There is a black irony to the spectacle of Coalition MPs talking virtuously about upholding the Refugee Convention, while maintaining they will turn boats around at sea, refuse to process asylum seekers without documents and re-open Nauru.

“The hypocrisy of the parliamentary debate is astonishing. There is nothing in this debate, in Rob Oakeshott’s bill or the Coalition’s amendments that has anything to do with saving the lives of asylum seekers. Both parties are shamefully using the deaths of asylum seekers for cheap political advantage. They have no respect for the lives of asylum seekers, lost in the hope of gaining their freedom and their future.

“If this Bill or the Coalition’s amendment is carried we could see asylum seekers plucked from the sea and then dispatched to limbo in Malaysia or Nauru.

“This unseemly debate will push even more people top get on boats more quickly. Australia is the only country in the region that has the resources and capacity to provide protection and security for asylum seekers.

“Humanitarian policy cannot start with stopping the boats; it must start with how can asylum seekers get to Australia safely. If the Australian government was serious about the safety of asylum seekers, it would increase its humanitarian quota, process asylum seekers in Indonesia and guarantee timely resettlement in Australia. If it was willing to do that, far fewer people would need to get on boats.

If they were truly interested in saving lives, asylum boats could even be escorted – rather than waiting for them to get in distress before providing assistance. Australian government policies are ultimately responsible for making asylum seekers run the gauntlet of the boat trip between Indonesia and Australia.

“We can only hope that both Oakeshott’s Bill and the Coalition’s amendments fail. Maybe then more Parliamentarians will be willing to put human rights at the forefront of refugee policy.”

For more information contact Ian Rintoul mob 0417 275 713.

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