A little over two weeks ago, the St Vincent de Paul Society National Council of Australia marked Refugee Week, the theme of which, was ‘Restoring Hope’ but partisan politics continues to de-humanise and demonise asylum seekers.
Chief Executive, Dr John Falzon has urged Members of Parliament to put politics aside and devise a humane and fact-based policy on refugees.
“The Government and Opposition both need to stop referring to asylum seekers as ‘illegal refugees’ – people have a legal right to seek asylum under the UNHCR 1951 Refugee Convention signed by Australia,” Dr Falzon said.
“Both sides of politics need to acknowledge that the vast majority of people who arrive by boat (up to 90 per cent) go on to gain refugee status and later citizenship.
“As a nation we need to accept that ‘no advantage’ policies and ‘stopping the boats’ rhetoric might win votes but will not deliver justice.”
National President of the St Vincent de Paul Society, Anthony Thornton said: “Our members’ and volunteers’ hearts are breaking from what they see in detention centres and in the community.
“Members of the Society in the Northern Territory report that approximately 500 children are in mandatory detention in Darwin. Across the country we are seeing a growth in despair and an increase in demands for emergency relief from asylum seekers living in the community without work rights.
“To put the urgency of the situation in perspective, in March 2012 there were 528 children in places of detention, as of June 10, 2013 this figures had risen to 1,632 and more recent reports have put the current figures even higher. This is a shameful situation that must be rectified,” Mr Thornton said.
For more information about what the St Vincent de Paul Society is doing for refugees, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.