Refugee group: ‘Puppet’ expert panel gave government what it wanted

Advocacy group Refugees, Survivors and Ex-Detainees (RISE) released the statement below on August 15.

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There is nothing to be surprised about. Once again, the government has used puppets to say yes to “offshore processing”. None of the three individuals on the Houston Panel have been appointed by refugee community groups or advocates, and therefore it comes as no surprise that their proposal is in line with the government’s own offshore solutions.

RISE strongly condemns the appointed “expert panel’s” proposal of establishing offshore processing centres as it isolates asylum seekers without giving them adequate refugee rights. We should not forget that the Australian High Court has already rejected the Malaysian solution and that detention facilities in Nauru were closed due to overwhelming human rights abuses that asylum seekers there faced.

We should not push back asylum seekers and refugees from Australia to other countries; countries that have not signed the UN Refugee Convention. Furthermore, Nauru has a poor track record of protection, safety, and humanitarian assistance for refugees and asylum seekers.

As a leading member of the international community and as a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention, the Australian government has certain ethical and legal obligations towards asylum seekers and refugees. According to the expert panel, the temporary protection visa (TPV) should be used for refugees who they might believe to be “vulnerable” in offshore detention centres, such as in Nauru or Manus Island.

The expert panel has forgotten that refugees are coming from life-threatening circumstances, they are already vulnerable and expect them to be more vulnerable if this ill-advised proposal goes ahead. Further we are concerned that this proposal will penalise refugees by not allowing them to reunite with their family and isolating them indefinitely.

Offshore processing centres may lower the number of asylum seekers in Australia, but it is not a viable solution to fairly deal with asylum seekers and it will not put a stop to people coming to this country by boat. There are over 33 million refugees around the world and Australia, many languishing in interim camps around the world.

The offshore processing system will just add to this tally of interim camps, keeping refugees further in limbo. People fleeing persecution will always keep trying to reach a more permanent and secure location for themselves and their families whether there is a policy to stop them or not.

Irrespective of how people arrive to Australia, asylum seekers should be treated with dignity and respect without being isolated behind razor wire in the middle of nowhere.

We urgently request for the Australian government’s policy to show empathy towards asylum seekers who reach Australia and to take all available steps to ensure their asylum claims are assessed in Australia. This policy will only reinstate “one nation and white Australia” concept.

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