Media Release – 17 June 2010

Humanists support refugees and asylum seekers

Victorian Humanists call upon the Australian Parliament to adopt more enlightened, humanitarian and compassionate standards of care for refugees and asylum seekers. It may literally mean the difference between life and death for asylum seekers.

Victorian Humanists particularly oppose the proposed return of Tamils to Sri Lanka and Hazaras to Afghanistan.  Both countries have been torn by war and have suffered high numbers of civilian casualties.  Independent sources and the Australian government travel advisories state that these countries remain dangerous for civilians.

This new policy is reminiscent of the refusal of entry to Jewish refugees during World War 2. It is fuelled by racist and xenophobic attitudes and violates every international human rights principle which Australia has endorsed since the Holocaust.  We call upon the government to reverse this policy.

Humanists oppose the reopening of Curtin Detention Centre for asylum seekers; we see this as a return to the brutal policies and practices of the previous government.  Why has the government broken its promise that no children would be locked in detention?

Humanists also oppose the recent announcement of policy by Mr Abbott.  The reintroduction of Temporary Protection Visas, turning boats away or processing asylum seekers offshore, in order to deny access to Australian society and legal assistance, are violations of international humanitarian law.  We believe that Australians share a sense of natural justice and compassion; they desire to see a “fair go” for the proverbial underdog instead of the victimization of people who have already suffered great trauma and abuse.   We appeal to Mr Abbott to rewrite his refugee policy and adopt a more humanitarian approach.

The number of people seeking asylum in Australia is small compared to other industrialized nations.  We are 16th of 44 such countries and receive fewer than 2% of claims for refugee status globally.  There are poorer nations that welcome greater numbers of refugees than Australia does.  Our nation is clearly not meeting its commitments, neither under international treaty nor human decency.

Humanists ask the major political parties to take 20 June (World Refugee Day) as an opportunity to announce a major reform in their policies in order to reflect a more humanitarian approach in line with international standards.

Contact Stephen Stuart, President, Humanist Society of Victoria at victorianhumanist@gmail.com