Media Release: Refugee Action Collective calls on the government to decriminalise people smuggling

The Refugee Action Collective (Victoria) is saddened by the news of over 200 asylum seekers who have potentially died at sea on their way to Australia to seek asylum. The Refugee Action Collective also condemns the anti-people smuggling policies of the Gillard Labor government and places them with the blame for the death of possibly over 200 asylum seekers off the coast of Java on Sunday morning.

“If Labor and the Coalition hadn’t criminalised arriving by boat and spent millions on border security, it would be much safer for asylum seekers to travel by boat to Australia,” said Refugee Action Collective spokesperson Benjamin Solah, “There is no reason to criminalise arriving by boat. It is not a crime under international law to seek asylum and it is perfectly justifiable to flee persecution and seek asylum anyway they can.”

The Australian government destroys intercepted boats resulting in unseaworthy boats being sent, and people smuggling being driven into the black market. We call on the government to decriminalise people smuggling so that those who can’t seek asylum by plane, can come here openly and safely.

“What ‘stopping the boats’ really means is condemning people to die in countries and situations of persecution they cannot flee, rotting in countries that do not recognise refugees or dying at sea. Chris Bowen is happy for any of this to happen, so long as he doesn’t have to take responsibility for looking after what is, in reality, a tiny number of refugees that arrive on our shores.”

The Refugee Action Collective (Victoria) also condemn Mark Latham’s comments blaming the Greens and Labor Left’s support of onshore processing. “Would Mark Latham rather refugees rot in Malaysia where they can be caned and tortured? How is this a more compassionate policy?”

“If the government was seriously concerned about the safety of asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat, it would dramatically increase the number of refugees that it resettles from Indonesia and Malaysia. Asylum seekers who reach these countries and are recognised as genuine refugees by the UNHCR, continue to languish for 10 or more years in Indonesia and Malaysia before any possibility of being resettled. That’s why so many asylum seekers board boats to Australia.”

Bridging visas welcome, but government refugee policy still inhumane

Recent changes to the immigration process with some asylum seekers released into the community under ‘bridging visas’ whilst their claims are being processed are welcome, but sadly do not spell the end of mandatory detention. A new detention centre continues to be built at Wickham point near Darwin. The rate of release on bridging visas will be torturously slow, 100 per month would mean 1200 a year, but there are over 2000 people who have been in detention over a year.

Who will be eligible for release remains unclear. This is the kind of uncertainty, that is already one of the main causes of tension within detention centres. The uncertainty is also mental torture for detaineees. The process must be made immediately transparent.

The Refugee Action Collective (Victoria) will be part of a national rally in Sydney on Sunday outside the ALP National Conference demanding an end to mandatory detention and offshore processing as the conference debates the Labor Party platform on offshore processing, particularly the future of the currently suspended ‘Malaysian solution.’ If Chris Bowen and Julia Gillard were serious about humane refugee policy, they would change the law to scrap offshore processing, rather than try to put it in the ALP platform.

“The recent changes don’t go far enough. There are still thousands in detention, which causes incidents of self-harm, and attempted suicides. Three stateless Faili Kurd Asylum seekers have stiched their lips and are on hunger strike in Darwin. The bridging visas have not helped them. There are 600 stateless asylum seekers who should be released immediately. The minister has the power to do so.

“Now the Malasyia deal is suspended, the government seems expediently concerned to make the refugee detention system more manageable, rather than ending the system. But the problem will not stop until every single asylum seeker is released from these concentration camps,” said Benjamin Solah, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Collective (Victoria).

Nov 19 – EMERGENCY PROTEST to stop Hazara asylum seeker being deported

Saturday 19 November, 11am, Federation Square

NO DEPORTATION
NO MANDATORY DETENTION
VISAS NOW!!!!

Hazara asylum seeker Ismail Jan from Villawood is facing deportation back to Afghanistan this weekend. There are last minute legal challenges in an attempt to stop this happening. The situation in Afghanistan is still very dangerous. Lets stand together to demand a stop to this and any deportation to danger. Let them stay.

With speakers from the Hazara community, refugee advocates and community members.

Spread the word, bring banners and be vocal on this issue. Facebook event here!

Initiated by Refugee Action Collective (Victoria)

Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here!

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