Groups demand new approach to asylum seekers and refugees

Photo: Peter Boyle.

The sign-on statement below was initiated by the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS). To add your name or organisation to the statement, visit the ACOSS website.

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Following last week’s historic High Court ruling that declared the Malaysia refugee swap deal invalid, Australia’s community sector is calling on the Australian government to abandon the current fixation with offshore “solutions” and to establish a just and humane approach to Australia’s response to people seeking asylum.

Leaders of Australia’s major charities and social service groups have been joined by many other concerned organisations to sign a statement urging both major political parties to de-politicise policies about the treatment of asylum seekers by immediately abandoning the policy of offshore processing and focusing on policies that uphold Australia’s human rights obligations domestically and internationally.

Instead of considering changes to the agreement with Malaysia or to the Migration Act, or looking at other offshore solutions, the groups urge Australia to use the High Court ruling as a definitive turning point for the way we have approached the treatment of people seeking asylum in Australia over the past decade.

The High Court ruling should be a watershed to reform Australia’s stance on asylum seekers in line with our international obligations.

As a group, the signatories to this statement call for:

Both major political parties respect the full implications of the high court ruling, including that neither indefinite detention nor sending asylum seekers to uncertainty in other countries can be presented as a just or credible response to the needs of people seeking refuge and protection in Australia.

The Australian government to take leadership on this issue and use the ruling as an opportunity to reframe the national debate about refugees and asylum seekers, accepting that the majority of asylum seekers who have entered Australia by boat have been found to need protection from persecution, and therefore that the vulnerability of asylum seekers must be a primary consideration in any government response to people movement.

The Australian government to immediately rule out offshore processing and mandatory detention, and allow people seeking asylum to be placed in the community whilst waiting for a decision, other than in exceptional circumstances.

The Australian government to immediately move to process all asylum seekers onshore. Instead of spending substantial funds deporting people overseas and building facilities offshore, the Australian government should enable Australia’s community sector to support and resettle people humanely and effectively, as an appropriate, sensitive and least expensive solution to Australia’s humanitarian responsibilities.

The Australian government to increase our refugee and humanitarian intake in the region and honour its commitment to resettle the 4000 refugees from Malaysia. Increasing Australia's intake of refugees from the region is one of the most effective, economic and humane ways to respond to people smuggling.

The Australian government to continue to work towards a regional solution to the plight of people seeking asylum. Australia should build on the progress achieved through the Bali Process this year to work with governments in Asia-Pacific and beyond to work towards fundamental change to the treatment of asylum seekers and refugees in the region.

The groups urge both major parties to stop using policies regarding asylum seekers to foster misunderstanding, social division and distrust, and instead use it as an opportunity to get on with the job of fulfilling Australia's commitment under the Refugee Convention to treat people humanely, process them onshore, and promote the better treatment of asylum seekers and refugees in our region.

As a country, we must adopt just and humane policies on refugees and asylum seekers and in so doing raise the level of debate and treatment of some of the most vulnerable people in the world. Only then will Australia be able to hold its head high in the international community as a nation with a commitment to human rights and a deep appreciation of the plight of people seeking a safe haven from persecution and a better way of life.

Supported by:

2020 Women
ACT Council of Social Service
ActionAid Australia
Advocacy for Inclusion
amnesty international
Anglicare Australia
Anglicare Victoria
Association Amis des Enfants Australia Inc.
Association of Children's Welfare Agencies
Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC)
Asylum Seekers Christmas Island
Athelstone Uniting Church
Australian Association of Social Workers
AASW (SA Branch)
Australian Catholic Social Justice Council
Australian Community Workers Association
Australian Education Union
Australian Greens
Australian Kurdish Association
Australian Women's Health Network
Australian Youth Affairs Coalition
Berry Street
Blue Mountains East Timor Sisters
Cabramatta Centre
Cabramatta Community Centre
Cairns Diocese Social Justice contact.
Caritas, Catholic Mission, ACSJC
Catholic Justice and Peace Commission of Brisbane
Catholic Religious Australia
Catholic Social Services Australia
Centacare Bathurst
Centacare Cairns
Centacare Catholic Family Services Catholic Diocese of Port Pirie
Centacare Townsville
Centacare, Mount Isa
Central West Women's Health Centre Inc.
centre for community child health
centre for health Service Development
Churches of Christ CareWorks SA&NT
Community Legal Centres NSW
Community Living Project Inc
Consumer Credit Legal Centre NSW Inc.
Creative Contingencies
DASSAN (Darwin Asylum Seeker Support & Advocacy Network
Didactic Enterprises
Disability Resources Centre
Domestic Violence Resource Service
Eastern Community Legal Centre
Edmund Rice Centre
Equatioria community and welfare assciation NSW Inc
Family Relationship Services Australia
Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia
Flemington & Kensington Community Legal Centre Inc.
Granville Multicultural Community Centre
Green Left Weekly
Griffith University
Hepatitis C Council of SA
Hills Community Options Inc
Hinterland Community Development Association
Homelessness Australia
Human Rights Law Centre
Illawarra Legal Centre
Immigrant Women's Support Service (IWSS)
Independent Education Union
International Society of Human Rights - Australia Inc
Jobs Australia Limited
Justice and Peace Office, Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney
KGA Consulting Group
Mekong Migration Network
Mental Health ACT
Mental Health Association NSW
MercyCare WA
Milang Old School House Community Centre
Mission Australia
Multicultural Services Centre of WA
Multicultural Youth Affairs Network NSW
NSW Family Services Inc.
NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby
National Association of Community Legal Centres Inc
National Ethnic Disability Alliance
National LGBTI Health Alliance
National Shelter
National Welfare Rights Network
Navitas English
Neighbourhood That Works
Newcastle Family Support Services
Northern Rivers Community Legal Centre
National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU)
NSW Rape Crisis Centre
NSW Spanish and Latin American Association (NSW SLASA)
Organisation Name
PeakCare Queensland
People with Disability Australia
Physical Disability Australia Ltd.
Presentation Sisters Queensland
Public Health Association of Australa
Public Interest Advocacy Centre
Qld Centre for Domestic and Family Violence Research
Refugee Action Coalition, NSW
Refugee and Immigration Legal Service Inc.
Refugee Council of Australia
Refugee Relief Association
Refugee Rights Action Network (RRAN)
Richmond Community Services Inc
Rosemount Good Shepherd Youth and Family Services
SA Council of Social Service
Shelter S.A.
SHine SA
signing as an individual, not on behalf of my organisation
Sister of Mercy
Sisters of Charity of Australia
Skill Teaching And Resources Inc.
Social Justice Commission Catholic Diocese of Toowoomba
Social Justice Network
Social Policy Connections
Socialist Alliance
South West Brisbane Community Legal Centre Inc
Southern Junction Community Services
Springvale Community Aid and Advice Bureau
St Bede's Braidwood Social Justice Group
St George Youth Services Inc.
St Marys Area Community Development Project Inc.
St Vincent de Paul Society
Survivors of Torture & Trauma Assist'ce & Rehabilitation Service (SA)
Sydney multicultural Community services
Tasmanian Council of Social Service
Textile Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia
the Hepatitis C Council of SA Inc
The House of Welcome
Toowoomba Refugee and Migrant Support
Uniting Church
Uniting Church in Australia National Assembly
UnitingCare Australia
UnitingCare Community
UnitingCare Gippsland
UnitingJustice Australia
Unity Housing Company Ltd
Victorian Council for Civil Liberties
WA Council of Social Service
Welfare Rights Centre (SA)
Welfare Rights Centre, Sydney
Western Sydney Aboriginal Reconciliation Committee
Western Sydney Community Forum
WISE Employment
Women With Disabilities Australia
Women's Activities and Self Help House Inc
Youth Action and Policy Association NSW
Youth Affairs Network of Qld
Youth and Cultral Development.(YCD) CHCH, NZ
Youth Coalition of the ACT
Youth Network of Tasmania
YWCA of Canberra
Zena Women's Services Inc


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