Australia's refugee policy challenged

Issue 

BY SARAH STEPHEN

In the week before the March 2 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, refugees; rights groups released a statement from refugees' rights groups, aimed at CHOGM delegates, titled "Time to end inhuman refugee policies".

The statement calls for the closure of detention centres, condemns the "Pacific solution" as no solution, and advocates money for resettlement of refugees instead.

Signed by Junie Ong for Children out of Detention (ChilOut), Anne Coombs for Rural Australians for Refugees, Pip Hinman for Action in Solidarity with Asia and the Pacific, Lisa Macdonald for the Free the Refugees Campaign, Margaret Reynolds for the United Nations Association of Australia and Eva Sallis for Australians against Racism, the statement says:

"CHOGM delegates will know of the Howard government's credibility crisis — brought on by its lies about refugees throwing their children overboard."

It points out that Australia's policy of mandatory detention makes it unique internationally. "The policy was introduced by the Hawke Labor government in 1992, but there has been bipartisan support for laws discriminating against asylum seekers for some time before that and since."

The statement marks the rapid rise in campaign groups across Australia, and the corresponding drop in support for the government's approach, concluding with a reminder of the last time Australian people forced their government to back down: "In 1999 we forced a reversal of another shameful 'bipartisan wrong policy' — that on East Timor. We will do it again."

From Green Left Weekly, March 6, 2002.
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