Amnesty International is pleased that common sense has prevailed and that short-term, quick-fix options have been defeated in the Senate.
“We all want to see an end to innocent people losing their lives at sea and now is the time for calm, rational debate - let us remember these are real men, women and children fleeing persecution,” says Claire Mallinson, Amnesty International’s National Director.
“It is certainly encouraging to see that politicians are looking for cross party solutions. Now is the time for politicians from all sides to pause, reflect and develop long term, sustainable solutions based on courage, compassion and a fundamental respect for the rights of people risking their lives in search of safety and dignity.
“Australia needs an effective and humane approach for the future that place vulnerable people at the heart of any solution and puts an end to the loss of life.”
Amnesty International encourages Parliamentarians to work constructively together to consider new ideas that improve conditions for all refugees in the region and that support the Refugee Convention and uphold international human rights law.
“Now is the time to put aside political differences and to place vulnerable people at the heart of any solution. No one wants to see innocent people making dangerous boat journeys,” says Ms Mallinson.
“However, offshore processing is not the way to address refugees and asylum seekers arriving by boat. In fact, third-country processing is an extremely expensive, unnecessary, illegal, short-term approach in place of policies that address the causes of onwards-movement and establish better standards for the treatment of refugees in the region.”
More must be done to improve conditions for refugees in the region, and any policies solely focussed on stopping boats, such as Malaysia and Nauru, are overly simplistic and punitive.
“The journeys by boat are dangerous, but as long as basic protections are not available to the vast majority of refugees in the Asia Pacific region, onwards journeys in search of safety will be made by boat or plane.
“There is now a real opportunity for all politicians to demonstrate real leadership and for Australia to live up to its role as a human rights leader in the region. It cannot afford to outsource its responsibilities - not to Malaysia, not to Nauru and not to Manus Island,” says Ms Mallinson.
Regional cooperation must ensure that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is fully resourced to efficiently process refugees within an ethical, sustainable framework based on human rights.
Australia must work with both source and transit countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand to address the reasons why refugees are fleeing these countries in the first place, and to establish a regional framework that provides genuine protections.
“We must remember: it is not illegal to seek asylum. Asylum seekers are well within their rights, regardless of how they get here,” says Ms Mallinson.
“And when the number of asylum seekers coming to Australia is so small in comparison to other Western countries, we must be able to provide more official, ethical channels and options for protection, prioritising safety of life in all circumstances.
People will cease to make dangerous boat journeys when they feel confident that their needs are being addressed and real alternatives exist.”
Claire Mallinson, Amnesty International’s National Director, is available for comment.