Socialist Alliance: Christmas Island deaths shows need to end refugees bashing

December 18, 2010
Photo by Peter Boyle.

Socialist Alliance statement

The horrific boatwreck and deaths of more than 30 asylum seekers on December 15 on the rocks of Christmas Island reveals the inhumanity of the Gillard Labor government’s asylum seeker policy.

This tragedy should be the trigger for the complete junking of the government’s current racist refugee policy.

"We need a refugee policy based on human solidarity not one that encourages racism and xenophobia", said Sue Bolton a refugee rights activist and a member of the Socialist Alliance national executive.

"The excuses used by PM Gillard and immigration minister Chris Bowen for why border control did not discover and help the boat that crashed on Rocky Point despite state-of-the-art surveillance do not add up.

"The millions of dollars currently being spent on intercepting and detaining refugees should instead be directed to helping settle these distraught and vulnerable people in the community, and fast-track their refugee claims," Bolton said.

"This terrible disaster would not have happened if Australia had a humane and practical refugee policy", said Paul Benedek, also a refugee rights activist and member of the Socialist Alliance national executive.

"Australia, a rich country, can and must do more to assist those seeking asylum. People will continue to flee war and occupation — no matter the dangers. And while the ALP government continues to commit Australia to various wars – directly and indirectly – it has a responsibility to assist those fleeing war and persecution. It’s that simple.

"The Gillard government must be held accountable for these latest refugee deaths. Asylum seekers should not have to risk life and limb to reach Australia to ask for asylum," Benedek added.

Socialist Alliance calls for an open judicial inquiry into this disaster with refugee advocates who have been championing a humane and practical refugee policy involved.

The survivors of Rocky Point must be given every assistance, and freed from Christmas Island detention. All refugees must be freed from detention and housed in communities while their applications are processed. The ALP must drop its regional processing centre plans and pro-actively assist asylum seekers to come to Australia from Indonesia and Malaysia. Off-shore processing is clearly no deterrent to those escaping violence and persecution and it should be abandoned.

Information supplied by Wikileaks shows the government deliberately distorts the facts about asylum seekers to turn opinion against those coming by boat.

"The Liberal-National opposition is just as much to blame," said Bolton. "With government and opposition politically bashing asylum seekers, it is not surprising that the polls show Australians are turning against supporting asylum seekers."

"This is bipartisan racism and cruelty.

"As most Australians prepare to spend Christmas holidays with family and friends, we have to ensure that the deaths of these latest victims of a racist policy do not go in vain.

"Anyone with a conscience should redouble their efforts to force a change in policy and ensure that the government is held accountable. Refugees can no longer be the victims of the political point scoring between the Labor and Coalition."

Contact Sue Bolton 0413 377 978 or Paul Benedek 0410 629 088 for more comment

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