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29.1.18

Three letters to Editor by Dr Michael Blockey


                                             Some facts, Luke
Luke, I fear you have been misinformed about the Coalition's offshore refugee policy. So let me outline four facts in an effort to gain your support for what most Australians want, namely bringing the Manus Men here.
Fact 1. We have never been swamped by boat people, not in 2013 when boat arrivals peaked, or at any other time. We have what is called a Humanitarian Quota (HQ), the number of refugees we welcome here each year. In 2013, the HQ was 20,000. In 2013, 17,000 refugees came here, including about 9,000 boat people. In short, we could have taken another 3,000 refugees. We were not being swamped.
Fact 2. Because we weren't being swamped, we didn't need policies to discourage boat people from coming to Australia. Like, why have turn back to stop the 'hordes' from coming here when the 8,500/9,000 boat people who come here per year can be absorbed in our HQ of 18,000/20,000 refugees/year? 
Fact 3. If we aren't being swamped with boat people, why incarcerate 2000 refugees on Manus and Nauru and treat them cruelly as an example to others who might clamber on board boats?
Fact 4. If we aren't being swamped, why does the Coalition maintain the Rudd policy, the policy that says that those refugees who come by boat can never be allowed to settle in Australia? The thinking behind this policy is that it discourages people smugglers from plying their trade.
The fact that we aren't being swamped should determine Australia's refugee policy. It doesn't, it ignores it!

Dr Michael Blockey, Scotts Head


                               More facts, Luke!
Peter Dutton, your Immigration Minister, should know the UN Convention on Refugees. He either doesn't or does but disregards it.  I say this because just this week he has twice breached a key principle of the Convention Australia pledged in 1951 to uphold. This principle is non-refoulement. Refoulement is the forcible return of refugees or asylum seekers to a country where they are liable to be subjected to persecution. We pledged not to do that.
But Dutton has done it twice in one week! In the first case, 29 Sri Lankan asylum seekers landed near Exmouth in WA. Under the Convention, they can claim asylum in Australia and have their claim heard. This right was denied and they were sent back to Sri Lanka by plane. Dutton breached the Convention a second time by forcibly returning them to Sri Lanka. He practised refoulement, he sent them back to persecution.

In the second case, Dutton ordered a Tamil refugee living in Australia to be deported back to Sri Lanka. His crime? He failed to lodge his claim for protection by 1 October. He couldn't access the necessary legal assistance to fill out a form designed to be impossibly difficult because the waiting list for such  assistance at refugee legal centres was more than a year. He appealed to Dutton saying he lodged the form on 4 October. Instead of showing tolerance and compassion, Dutton took the opportunity to forcibly return him to Sri Lanka, the country he fled because he was being persecuted. He again took the opportunity to practise refoulement.

These two acts of refoulement, Peter Dutton, join all the other breaches of the Convention you and Morrison have committed in our name.

Dr Michael Blockey, Scotts Head

And more facts, Luke
People fleeing persecution in their homeland have the right to claim asylum in another country, say Australia. Our Immigration Department (ID) is obligated, under the UN Convention on Refugees, to be 'just and speedy' in processing such claims. Sadly, it is anything but. Let me give you four examples.
The Tamils fleeing Singhalese persecution in Sri Lanka are met on the high seas or on the WA  coast by our Navy, are asked a few questions, a decision is made they are 'economic' refugees and they are flown back to the persecution they are fleeing. Speedy but hugely unjust!
Before your Coalition came to power, some 92% of asylum seekers coming here by boat were judged to be genuine refugees. Under your mob, Luke, that has fallen to 60/70%. Dutton and Morrison both dislike boat people and want as few as possible into Australia.
Speedy? The people on Manus and Nauru have been imprisoned there for 4 years. Some of them have still not been interviewed by your ID.
Worse still, some asylum seekers are refused an ID interview. You may have wondered, Luke, why people clamber aboard boats and head to Australia knowing that our Navy will detect on the border? They aren't trying to make it to WA. They are just trying to get into our waters because they know that once in our waters they can claim asylum in Australia. Having achieved this, they are sent back to Indonesia, not back to the villages, as Morrison claims, but into concentration camps. There are about 4,000 of our asylum seekers in these prisons. They have the right to have their claim to asylum heard. But over the last 4 years, no claim has been heard because the Coalition won't let the ID into these camps. It fears compassionate ID staff will blow the whistle on these camps, camps it pays Indonesia billions of dollars to operate!
Luke, you might ask Dutton about these four points!

Dr Michael Blockey, Scotts Head






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