Refugees Have Human Rights Too

By | 23 Dec 2021

Media Release 23 Dec 2021

MEDIA RELEASE – 23 December 2021

In her comments on International Human Rights Day, 10 December, Foreign Minister Marise Payne said, “This year’s theme of equality is a timely reminder of the indivisibility and universality of human rights” and “Australia is deeply concerned by instances around the world of arbitrary detention.”

Yet, on 31 December, Australia’s contract with Papua New Guinea (PNG) to process refugees will conclude.

More than 100 refugees will no longer be supported by Australia, with dire consequences expected for their safety and welfare. Father Giorgio Licini, the general secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, described the situation this way:

“A sad celebration of Christmas also again awaits about one hundred asylum seekers and refugees in Port Moresby. They are the remnants of the more than one thousand men housed first in Manus Island since 2013 by the Australian government. By 1st January 2022 they will be under the full responsibility of the cashless PNG government until a solution is found, at least for some of them. Expect the others to be in the streets of Port Moresby rather soon, including the fifteen or so in a special list by humanitarian organizations as being too mentally ill now to ever be able to fend for themselves.”

As well, there are still about 70 people in detention in Australia, having been transferred from PNG and Nauru for medical treatment. The great majority have been granted refugee status under the Refugee Convention, but for unexplained and apparently arbitrary reasons, some have been released into the community and some have not. Humanists Victoria endorse the call from the Refugee Council of Australia and Father Licini in PNG, for Australia to honour its obligations under the Refugee Convention.

Humanists contend that refugees are deserving of the same liberties and respect as the rest of us, and that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is an ethical document of high order.  We ask the Minister to take urgent steps to reconcile the aspirations she stated on Human Rights Day with government policy and practice.