Media Release: Government to blame for asylum seeker lives lost at sea 2

The possible loss of lives of nearly 100 asylum seekers feared drowned at sea between Australia and Indonesia was entirely preventable. The Refugee Action Collective places the blame for these lives lost with the Australian government and demands people smuggling is decriminalised to prevent any further loss of life.

“Refugees are some of the world’s most vulnerable people. They need our help, not the various stages of torture we put them through to try and stop them from seeking asylum. We should help them arrive here by boat. We should make it safer,” said Benjamin Solah, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Collective (Victoria).

This particular boat and those on it could have been saved days before. Many media reports account for Australian authorities knowing that the boat was in distress well before the boat capsized. Australia’s border security regime should answer for why they watched on as the tragedy unfolded. The Australian Navy should be used to rescue asylum seekers not deter them from entering Australian waters and exercising their basic right to seek asylum.

RAC Victoria also reiterates its demand that people smuggling be decriminalised. The criminalisation of people smuggling, the scuttling (destroying) of boats on arrival and the regime of border protection make the journeys more unsafe than they need to be. We demand the five year mandatory sentences for people smuggling should be scrapped. We also demand that Australia accept more refugees that languish in detention centres in Indonesia and actually meet its quota.

“Whilst both Gillard and Abbott pledge not to play politics after tragedies like these, it is just a cover for the fact that it is policies like ‘Stop the boats’ and ‘turn the boats back’ that will mean more refugees will drown at sea.”