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Choose: Political Survival or Human Survival?

VisaOne
30 May, 2016

The basic principle of humanitarianism is not to punish. The current refugee and asylum policy is a wrong policy that seriously harms people who dared to seek Australia's protection. The drownings argument is plain wrong and used only for political purposes. So, do we save someone from drowning to punish the survivor?

Prolonged detention and uncertainty while living in 'twilight zone' seriously harms people who came by boat seeking protection and those unlucky enough to be transported to Nauru and Manus, purely for political reasons, rather than for humanitarian ones. If you are recognised as being owed protection, you are also not certain of your future. If you fail the system on Nauru and Manus, no-one cares and there is no-one to help because you are far away.

The onshore fast-track process is also punitive and very unreasonable. The nature and conduct of identity interviews are hostile. Everything about current policy affecting people from refugee and asylum seeking backgrounds is wrong. Those of us at the coalface are outraged at what is happening. We are voters and tax payers and I object to my tax dollars being used to continually punish people who dare to seek Australia's protection.

Regional framework:

I worked for the US Refugee Program in Singapore in the late 70's early 80's where there was an effective regional resettlement program.

There were 4 refugee camps in SE Asia - Indonesia (Pulau Galang), Malaysia (Pulau Bidong), Hong Kong and The Philippines. I worked with the resettlement officers in Galang. Most of the Indo-Chinese refugees waited up to 2 years before being resettled in 5 countries who participated in this resettlement program - Australia, Canada, Sweden, USA and I forget the last one. Very few refugees felt the need to take an onward boat journey from the camps because there was a sense they would be resettled within a reasonable time. It was a good program that worked well under the late Malcolm Fraser.

It is heartening that church groups, policy advisers etc are starting to talk about resourcing the UNHCR to assess claims in Indonesia or Malaysia. This is the way forward, not offshore prisons or punitive policies onshore.

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