Labor for Refugees released the statement below on September 6.
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Labor for Refugees today wrote to Bob Carr, Minister for Foreign Affairs, to refute his damaging speculation that there could be 180,000 boat people coming to Australia in the near future.
Labor for Refugees told Bob Carr that we are “appalled at your speculation that there could be 180,000 boat people coming to Australia in a single year, talk which is most unhelpful, and could fan the intolerant racist flames hovering not far below the surface in the Australian community”. As members of the Labor Party, Labor for Refugees expects better of any politician that represents Labor values.
Labor for Refugees reminded Bob Carr: “In your excellent article of 10 August 2012, in the Australian, entitled ‘Jordan's tolerance shines a light on rest of the world’, you quoted Jordan’s Ambassador to Australia as saying that the ‘Jordanian spirit was not just tolerance … but acceptance and respect’. Your subsequent speculation about 180,000 boat people appears to contradict this sentiment.”
Labor for Refugees recommended to Mr Carr that in order for him to better understand the factors that drive asylum seekers to get on leaky boats, he view the recent SBS program, Go Back to Where You Came From.
Labor for Refugees reminded Bob Carr that:
· There has been fear expressed about the number of boat people since the days of boat arrivals from Vietnam but the expressed fears have never eventuated.
· Australia has a very small refugee intake relative to the world population of refugees.
· Talk aimed at raising fears about boat people may prejudice Australia’s prospects for membership of the UN Security Council.
Labor for Refugees urges that Bob Carr and the Gillard government consider the following practical solutions:
· Negotiating a regional framework that will provide for the expeditious processing of the 4000 odd asylum seekers in Indonesia so that they can be brought here safely;
· Pressing the Australian Maritime and Safety Authority (AMSA) to take responsibility for rescuing the victims of boat disasters instead of passing the problem on to the ill-equipped Indonesian safety authorities, and
· Engaging with Sri Lanka to expedite a meaningful and lasting political solution to the indigenous Tamil issue — a solution which would stop boats coming from Sri Lanka and thereby help prevent the loss of innocent lives.