Australia’s current policies are violating human rights and are in breach of the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention.

Thousands of Australians have been voicing their concern over the government’s hard-line treatment of asylum seekers. These people, including Humanists, consider that

  • everyone has a right to life that is free from persecution and life-threatening situations; seeking asylum is a human right;
  • Australia should be more generous and provide resettlement and permanent protection to many more refugees;
  • asylum seekers have the right to live with dignity and in safety while their claims for protection are being processed, and
  • a good society is one shaped by compassion and justice for all people, including asylum seekers.

Instead of offshore detention, asylum seekers should be processed in Australia. Currently over 2,000 people including Syrians have been held offshore on Manus and Nauru for almost three years. This includes nearly 300 children on Nauru. Amnesty International described the situation in offshore detention centres as ‘tantamount to torture’. Detainees living in cramped conditions in unbearable heat are denied sufficient water, medical services and privacy.

Mandatory detention is imprisonment without charge. It violates the human right to freedom of people who have done no wrong. Many asylum seekers who are detained for years are found to be refugees when their claims are processed.

The government’s Border Force Act (supported by the opposition) threatens health workers and others with up to two years’ jail if they speak out on what they have witnessed in detention centres.

Temporary Protection Visas cause serious harm to refugees’ mental health. They are a cruel and unconscionable way to treat people who have been recognised as refugees.

The government needs to engage in tactical diplomacy directed at eliminating the lucrative trade in people-smuggling, particularly in nearby countries; along with developing more humane policies for handling asylum seekers and refugees. See ‘Track 2 dialogue’, page 6.

Send a message to the government by ‘Walking for Justice for Refugees’ on Sunday 20 March – meet 2 pm, State Library of Victoria, Melbourne, and join with dozens of other community groups.

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