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The Refugee Action Coalition has welcomed the government’s announcement to immediately increase Australia’s refugee intake to 20,000. But the government could and should have increased the intake without re-opening Nauru.
“The bitter pill of violating refugee rights on Nauru is not going to be sweetened by increasing Australia’s overall intake,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.
“The increase to 20,000 places is welcome, if long overdue. Even with the increase, the refugee intake is still lower as a proportion of refugees to population than it was in the early 1990s, before the Howard government cut it in half.
“There are many details still to be announced. And the expert panel recommended that 3800 of the extra places should go to refugees waiting within the region. So taking only an extra 400 refugees from Indonesia is only a small start — and they need to know now, when they will be coming to Australia.”
Rintoul said: “One crucial issue is timely processing and resettlement. The four hundred refugees in Indonesia recognised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees should be brought to Australia immediately.
“Twenty-seven Tamil refugees who were told in January that they had been accepted by Australia are still waiting to be resettled seven months later.
“Only one family has even had a resettlement interview. There are around 80 of the Merak Tamils promised resettlement by the Rudd government in 2009 still waiting in Medan. If the government expects its announcement to have any impact, they can’t make the refugees in Indonesia wait another month let alone another year.
“These are the kinds of delays and broken promises that push asylum seekers and refugees onto boats.
“The announcement also exposes the contradictions and hypocrisy in the government’s new Pacific Solution. Under the Pacific Solution, Sri Lankan asylum seekers who arrive at Cocos Island are liable to be sent to Nauru. But Sri Lankan refugees who have to make longer boat trips to travel to Malaysia or Indonesia will be a resettlement priority.