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Issue #1607      August 21, 2013

Shameful attack on asylum seekers

The Coalition’s announcement that they will introduce temporary protection visas, remove appeal rights and fast-track deportations is just the latest round of the shameful Dutch auction of asylum seekers’ rights, says the Refugee Action Coalition.

“Labor and the Coalition are falling over themselves to announce ever-harsher anti-refugee policies. Scott Morrison’s announcement fails the commonsense test and he has outed himself as a hypocrite. On the one hand he wants to deny appeal rights and quickly deport ‘failed’ asylum seekers in the name of certainty. On the other, he will deny certainty to those who are found to be refugees,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“He wants to give recognised refugees temporary protection visas, rather than permanent protection. But is Afghanistan or Pakistan about to become safer, with the Taliban set to become part of the Afghan government?

“Kevin Rudd set off the latest downward spiral with his PNG solution. Scott Morrison is determined to go one worse. It’s time Australian politics got off this toxic merry-go-around.”

Rintoul noted that there are thousands of people who will be found to be refugees who are now living in the community without the right to work and without adequate resources. These people need certainty and support.

“Both political parties are willing to spend billions of dollars expanding detention centres and sending asylum seekers off-shore. Those billions could be used to provide resources and raise living standards in Australia rather than trash the rights of asylum seekers.

“Both political parties can fill the black hole at the middle of their refugee policies and the black hole of the economic policies by ending the scapegoating of refugees and using the billions now used for detention for community services and resettlement.”

Meanwhile, the Refugee Action Coalition says all Nauru asylum seekers should be evacuated to Australia. “The fire at the Nauruan hospital is the last straw,” said Ian Rintoul. “The unsanitary conditions of the tent city camp have already created a humanitarian crisis among the asylum seekers. Over 100 asylum seekers have been struck down with an epidemic of gastroenteritis that has made conditions in the camp unbearable.

“There are only six portable toilets for over 400 asylum seekers. And there is no running water for washing. Up to 17 asylum seekers are living in one tent. The camp conditions are shocking. It is now urgent for asylum seekers to be brought to Australia before the emergency situation deteriorates any further.”

He said that there have never been adequate facilities to care for the asylum seekers or the Nauruan people. Asylum seekers are routinely medi-vacced to Australia, because the facilities on the island cannot cope. Australia should be assisting Nauru to improve the medical facilities there, not wasting millions expanding detention centres.

“It is now also certain that there are recognised refugees being kept in the Nauruan hell-hole, but the government has done nothing to ensure they are released.

“The failure of lawyers to show up was one of the things that triggered the riot at the detention centre on July 19.

“The government has been twiddling its thumbs while Nauru burns. The asylum seekers on Nauru were sent before the PNG solution and were never going to be resettled on the island. There are being kept in inhumane conditions, held hostages to Labor’s election campaign.”   

Next article – Coal seam gas mining and drinking water

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