As it is not illegal to seek asylum one must wonder why it has been government policy for so long to detain asylum seekers off shore or even in detention centres on the mainland. The rather excessive misplaced funding that has gone into establishing these facilities even to the reopening of Christmas Island in case ……..what?
In 2017 a very diverse group of people from refugee backgrounds, actors, academics, community groups and NGOs worked together to articulate a platform of reform for the Australian Refugee Policy. There were key policy areas that were necessary to change for Australia to become a fair egalitarian nation into the future.
1 The permanent end to offshore processing.
The policy of detaining people on Narau has had devastating impacts on those subjected to it and include such issues as deteriorating physical and mental health.
There are continued and escalating reports of abuse both within the detention centres and in the community.
The separation of families between the islands and Australia leaving people with little hope of hope of resolution.
2 A fair process for claiming asylum
Since 2014 people arriving by boat and with no valid visas are held in offshore detention centres and are no longer entitled to access the Refugee Status Determination Process. A fair process requires access to legal services and independent review. Many people who arrived by boat prior to 2014 seeking asylum are left in the Australian community with no government funded support for twelve or more months and experience a long period of financial crisis. A key difference for people seeking asylum is their method of arriving in Australia, not the legitimacy of their refugee status.
3 Reform of the immigration detention system
Detention for people with no visa status is mandatory by law. There is no time limit on detention and it seems the release from detention is almost entirely at the discretion of the Minister and the Department of Immigration.
The vision of Refugee Council of Australia is for people seeking asylum in Australia to be treated fairly and humanely with their human rights upheld. For mandatory indefinite immigration detention ending and people seeking safety to be free to live in the Australian community while their claims are transparently processed
4 A larger and more responsive refugee and Humanitarian Programme
The vision of the Refugee Council is for Australia’s refugee and Humanitarian programme to increase significantly in size as recognition that it could and should do more to contribute to durable solutions for the global need for the world’s refugees. There is an enormous need for global resettlement concurrent with the reduction of resettlement by the US government.
More than half of the current Australian Refugee and Humanitarian programme is taken up by applications for family reunion by people in Australia but the demand exceeds supply. This could be achieved by promoting family reunion of refugees through the inclusion of a separate stream of humanitarian family reunion in the Migration Programme.
These key policy areas are included in a statement from Australia’s Refugee Council of Australia brief.