The Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers report seems to be a compilation of every refugee policy suggestion over the past few years - the Pacific Solution, the Regional Solution, turning back boats, increasing our humanitarian quota - it's all here in the report.
Let's go through some of their key recommendations:
Increasing our annual Humanitarian Program to 20,000
It's about time Australia does this! What's even better is the suggestion that the intake increases further to 27,000 by 2018. Now that's Australia pulling its weight.
Increasing resettlement among traditional and emerging countries
This is a step closer to a genuine regional solution for refugees. While increasing Australia’s resettlement numbers is helpful, there are more than 10 million refugees in the world - and 800,000 of them desperately need resettlement.
Having Australia use diplomatic channels to encourage other nations to pull their resettlement weight is crucial for a fairer outcome for refugees in the region.
De-linking onshore and offshore humanitarian program
Amnesty has been asking for this for a number of years. Linking the numbers of refugees who are resettled from offshore (like refugee camps) with the number of refugees who seek asylum in Australia directly (boat and plane arrivals) is unnecessary and causes confusion.
"There are more than 10 million refugees in the world - and 800,000 of them desperately need resettlement."
Changing the Migration Act to allow offshore processing
This would mean removing the line that states Australia shouldn't remove an asylum seeker to a place where they will not be protected. Such a move will allow the Parliament to send Australia’s asylum seekers to anywhere it thinks is safe
So, despite all the Expert Panel's assurances that their key concern is ‘protecting people’, they don't actually want the Government to be held to account on that basis.
By default this means that offshore processing means no protection for asylum seekers.
Nauru and Manus Island to be reopened as soon as possible
But we tried this already and it had awful consequences for those we are meant to protect. It destroyed the mental health of hundreds of already vulnerable people. It cost millions - maybe even billions. It broke international law. It was basically a complete international embarrassment.
There is no way to dress it up - warehousing desperate refugees on tiny, impoverished islands while their sanity deteriorates is unacceptable.
The Malaysia Deal
Tried and failed too.
Malaysia already has over 100,000 refugees and asylum seekers of its own, it doesn’t need or want ours. The refugees in Malaysia have no legal rights; they are often beaten, exploited, raped and detained in horrific conditions.
Instead of sending Australia’s comparative handful of asylum seekers there, why don’t we help make life better for refugees in Malaysia so they don’t get on boats in the first place?
"There is no way to dress it up - warehousing desperate refugees on tiny, impoverished islands while their sanity deteriorates is unacceptable."
'No advantage principle'
This basically means that if you get on a boat to Australia, you will not be allowed access to any of the legal protections Australia is obligated to guarantee under international law. Instead, you will be processed as though you were seeking asylum, say, in Bangladesh. In other words, processing times on Nauru will be on par with the rest of the region (this could mean decades!).
Since when did Australia create policy that tries to reach the lowest standards possible?
Removing Australia from Australia's Migration Zone
This means the Government will pass a law to state that anyone who arrives anywhere in Australian territory without a visa no longer has any ability to claim protection from Australia.
Basically it is a legal loophole to allow Government to sidestep the Refugee Convention.
Seeking asylum is a human right. It is the mechanism that millions of refugees have used to find safety and today continues to be the only hope for more than 99% of the world’s refugees.
Introducing laws that disallow refugees to claim protection in Australia seriously violates the right to asylum and sets a dangerous example for the rest of the region, and the world.
Turning back the boats
As has been reiterated ad nauseum, turning back boats does not just violate human rights principles, it also puts everyone's life at risk - asylum seekers, crew, and Navy personnel. It really does make Australia look like it will go to any lengths to avoid its responsibilities towards asylum seekers.
A strategic, comprehensive and integrated regional approach?
This should have been my favourite - it’s exactly what I want, and it’s exactly what I know will work. Yet, it has quickly become the most painful to me - because no one is talking about it, about what it means, about how to implement it, about when to start it.
Call me pessimistic, but I'm terrified we're going to get stuck with all the horrors of every deterrent anyone has ever suggested, with no real attempt to address the situation beyond Australia’s borders.
Once again our "improve refugee safety in the Asia Pacific to remove the horrific reasons people get on boats in the first place" solution is just not catchy enough to get any attention.