In Australia, public debate about asylum seekers and refugees right has been distorted by myths and misconceptions. Current government policy is shaped by around border protection concerns, and the idea that asylum seekers are "breaking the rules". The result has been asylum seeker policy that is ineffective, inefficient, inhumane, and in many cases in violation of international human rights law.

The facts are simple:

  • Asylum seekers are not 'illegal' - it is a human right to seek asylum by boat in Australia (UN Refugee Convention and Australian Migration Act 1958)

  • Asylum seekers arriving by boat make up less than 3% of Australia’s annual immigration

  • The majority of asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boat are found to be genuine refugees fleeing persecution, torture and violence.

Amnesty's aims

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights - Article 14

Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.

This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Amnesty is calling on the Australian Government to;

  • End offshore processing and instead process all refugee claims made in Australia on the Australian mainland

  • End indefinite mandatory detention and instead place asylum seekers in the community once initial checks are completed

  • Ensure that Australia's refugee status determination system is fair and robust

  • Commit adequate resources to developing a regional approach to refugees and asylum seekers

One of the first asylum seekers to be transferred from detention on Christmas Island to detention on Nauru © DIAC Images (flickr)One of the first asylum seekers to be transferred from detention on Christmas Island to detention on Nauru © DIAC Images (flickr)

Current campaign focus

In 2012, the Australian government re-introduced offshore processing on Nauru and Manus Island. So far no details about protections, conditions or processes on these islands have been outlined.

Furthermore, the government's commitment to the long process of a regional approach to refugee protection seems uncertain.

The offshore processing legislation needs to be repealed. However while offshore processing exists, we will work to ensure that asylum seekers and refugees affected are treated humanely.

Instead of focusing on short-term punitive measures, the government needs to commit adequate resources to an effective, human rights-based regional framework that addresses the reasons for irregular migration. This would lead to increased protection for refugees and asylum seekers in the Asia Pacific region, and reduce the number of refugees forced to make dangerous onwards journeys.

To make all of this happen, we need Australians to be aware of the flaws in the offshore processing policy and take action against it.

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