Having posted regularly encouraging people to contact the minister responsible for immigration (amongst others) regarding Australia’s policies on offshore processing and mandatory detention for asylum seekers, it seems appropriate to share a written response from Peter Dutton with anyone who’s interested in this issue.
This response was received because the federal member for the seat of Brisbane, Trevor Evans, took the concerns of one of his constituents to the Minister for Home Affairs. So if you’re able to engage your local political representative, that’s likely to increase the possibility of a response.
The contents of the Minister’s response are, sadly, no surprise. However, it’s interesting to have a written record of statements that range from problematic to easily disproven …
It remains a real concern that the minister with the responsibility for this issue continues to not just verbally refer to asylum seekers as “illegal” but uses that term in writing. Not only is it frequently emphasised by ALL organisations with expertise in this area (e.g. the Red Cross; the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre etc.) that it is not illegal to arrive in a country without official documentation if you do so because your life or freedom is threatened, but the Australian Parliamentary Library document, ‘Asylum Seekers and Refugees – What are the Facts?’ states definitively that:
“The UNHCR emphasises that a person who has a well-founded fear of persecution should be viewed as a refugee and not be labelled an ‘illegal immigrant’ as the very nature of persecution means that their only means of escape may be via illegal entry and/or the use of false documentation.”
For Peter Dutton to claim that the current policies “have succeeded as a major deterrent to people smugglers“ is not a just a blinkered view but an uninformed one, if the Minister truly believes that to be the case. If the Minister availed himself of the findings of those who acknowledge the need for people to flee oppressive regimes as a global issue and not simply a burden for Australian governments, he’d know that the deflection and containment measures in place have only served to “channel asylum boats through ever more perilous routes and multiply fatalities”. And that those who find themselves unable to travel via any means to find permanent resettlement exist en masse in huge camps where even basic amenities can be lacking, disease is rife and violence prevalent. And because there is no ‘queue‘, many people find themselves indefinitely stranded in ‘protracted refugee situations‘ where hopelessness combines with deteriorating health to making living a daily burden.
It would also be hoped that the Minister might recognise his department’s responsibilities in ensuring those they have consigned to indefinite detention (particularly offshore) are able to live in safety with access to needed resources like proper medical care (including trauma support and other counselling), case workers and translators to assist with their applications for refugee status etc. However, he has chosen in writing to lay the responsibilities for the ongoing management of the almost 800 men left on Manus Island solely at the door of the PNG government, despite the fact that Australian taxpayers are currently funding the private contractors who are providing the less than adequate services for men who have left on the island for almost 5 years without any indication of when they may be given their freedom. And with the closing of the RPC and vital services cut, the health of these hundreds will undoubtedly decline even more.
These are not all the problematic statements made by the Minister who is responsible for asylum seekers and refugees who come to Australia for the safety the deserve and are legally owed under the UN Refugee Convention and Protocol …
Click here to read the Minister’s letter along with the reply recently provided to Trevor Evans to refer back to Mr Dutton.
(All the references included in the response to the Minister have active links so if you’d like to read more about any of the issues, those might save you some googling. But it’s worth noting that anyone can find the accurate information on the issues easily via the internet. AVOIDING the legal, humanitarian and economic reasons to abolish mandatory detention and offshore processing is a much more challenging exercise.)
We’d encourage anyone to utilise or expand on any of the contents of the reply to the Minister in efforts to continue to insist that all the major political parties in Australia acknowledge that the current policies are not effective in any way other than if the intent is to cause irreparable harm to innocent people.