End the persecution of refugees

A refugee protest in April, 2013. Photo: Alex Bainbridge

World Refugee Day comes amid reports of more deaths at sea, forced deportations to torture and execution, malaria in the offshore camps in Nauru and Manus Island, suicide in detention, babies imprisoned as security threats and revelations of refugees on bridging visas without food, housing or work rights.

A competition in cruelty

This humanitarian crisis was created by consecutive Labor and Liberal governments. We now have the harshest policies for asylum seekers ever seen in Australia. The vilification of refugees by the two big parties is used to distract an electorate unimpressed by the major parties.

Elections have become a competition in cruelty. The Labor government introduces increasingly savage policies, which the opposition condemns as not harsh enough.

Politics of hate promoted by Gillard and Abbott

The Socialist Alliance rejects the false debate on “border security”. Australia’s borders are not threatened by “boat people” nor is there a flood of refugees arriving on our shores. Less than 0.1% of the 43 million refugees in the world come to Australia, which has 0.33% of the world’s population, 1.6% of the world’s GDP and 5% of the world’s land mass.

Liberal and Labor politicians use deaths at sea as a pretext for increasingly brutal policies to “stop the boats”. This ignores that refugees flee from necessity often with no planned destination. The Socialist Alliance rejects the racist discussion of “pull factors”, suggesting refugees plan their escape like booking a holiday package.

Scapegoating of refugees

The anti-refugee policies of Australian governments, including restricting family reunion rights, encourages people to make dangerous boat voyages.

The Socialist Alliance takes a stand against the major parties’ use of attacks on refugees for their own failings. Mining bosses and bankers are talking about the Australian economic boom, while a small number of refugees arriving by boat are held responsible for declining infrastructure and welfare and unaffordable housing.

With attacks on living and working conditions likely to increase if Abbott is elected, we must not let the politics of hate divide us.

The Socialist Alliance demands:

• End offshore processing of asylum seekers. Close Nauru, Manus Island and Christmas Island detention centres and bring asylum seekers to Australia.

• End mandatory detention. Immediately, close all detention centres and allow asylum seekers to live in the community while their asylum claims are being processed, as is already the case for asylum seekers who arrive by plane.

• Full rights to work and welfare payments for all asylum seekers living in the community.

• End deportation to unsafe countries and end the practice of not allowing asylum seekers to apply for asylum by ‘screening out’.

• End secret security assessments of asylum seekers by ASIO.

• Resettle refugees and asylum seekers from the transit countries, Malaysia and Indonesia, directly to Australia.

• Australia should stop supporting policies which make people refugees: End Australian military involvement in Afghanistan and other overseas military deployments.

• End support for repressive regimes overseas. Support the rights of oppressed nationalities and minorities such as Palestinians, Tamils, Kurds, Rohingya and others.

• Stop Australian resource companies from displacing local people in other countries. End ‘anti-people smuggling’ police operations.

[Margarita Windisch is a TAFE teacher and long-time campaigner for social justice and refugee rights. She is standing as a Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Wills.]