Joint Media Statement:
The St Vincent de Paul Society joins with the Australian Council for Social Services (ACOSS) and UnitingCare Australia to condemn Friday’s announcement of a new immigration policy which increases offshore processing of asylum seekers and gives them no hope of being resettled in Australia.
“ACOSS is opposed to any form of offshore processing,” ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said. “It has been found by the High court of Australia to be neither a just nor a credible response to people seeking refuge and protection in Australia.
“This inhumane, costly and damaging policy sets up precedence for the Australian government to abdicate its responsibilities as signatories to the United Nations Refugees Convention, by effectively passing them onto one of our poorest and least developed neighbours and penalising vulnerable asylum seekers.
Dr Goldie continued, “The new agreement will not stem the number of people seeking asylum by boat but simply puts their futures in even more treacherous hands.”
“Australia receives less than 0.3% of refugees worldwide. Ninety per cent of those who arrive in Australia by boat seeking asylum are found to be fleeing persecution and in need of protection,” said UnitingCare Australia, National Director, Lin Hatfield Dodds.
The current detention centre on Manus Island has been visited by the Australian Human Rights commission and Amnesty International, both reporting deplorable conditions for current detainees which under the new agreement will rise from 145 to as many as 3,000.
ACOSS, the St Vincent de Paul Society and UnitingCare Australia call for:
- The immediate abandonment of the policy and for both the government and the opposition to focus on designing a genuine regional solution to the plight of asylum seekers. This policy must take a holistic and sophisticated approach to the reason people flee their homelands and seek protection, especially those who put themselves in danger by fleeing by boat;
- A commitment by both sides of politics to processing asylum claims, particularly for families and children, in the Australian community and to ensure them a dignified and realistic standard of living through the provision of work rights or an adequate minimum level of financial assistance.
“As a country, we must adopt just and humane policies on the treatment of people seeking asylum and in doing so raise the level of debate and treatment of some of the most vulnerable people in the world, consistent with Australia’s proud history in the international community as a nation with a commitment to human rights and a deep appreciation of the plight of people seeking a safe haven from persecution,” Dr Goldie said.
St Vincent de Paul Society CEO, Dr John Falzon said: “We look forward to the day when elections are not a competition on how punitive we can be to people fleeing persecution and suffering. We should be welcoming these desperate and courageous people rather than allowing them to be used for political purposes by both sides of politics.”