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It is now more than seven years since the Rudd Labor government declared that, from 19th July 2013, any asylum seeker arriving in Australia by boat would be detained offshore indefinitely, and would never be permitted to settle in Australia. Since that date, many hundreds of asylum seekers have been detained on the island of Nauru, and many hundreds more in PNG.

Despite government claims to the contrary, it is lawful for people who are fleeing conflict and persecution to seek refuge in a safe country. That right is enshrined in international laws and treaties, to which Australia is a signatory. Under Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.”


Where are these asylum seekers now?

Some 870 refugees have been resettled in the US. Others, in desperation, have been persuaded to return to danger in their home countries. A small number have been privately sponsored to move to Canada, and a very small number are attempting to resettle on Nauru or in PNG. Others have been brought to Australia for medical treatment, with many of them held in detention centres or in hotels in Brisbane and Melbourne. They are not free, and they are expected by our government to return to Nauru or PNG once they have been treated for their medical conditions. Some 290 people remain in limbo on Nauru and in PNG. They have committed no crime, yet, unlike convicted criminals, there is no end in sight for them. Their punishment is indefinite, and the conditions under which they are held are not safe.


Seven years too long

It has been more than seven years of deliberate abuse, of appalling conditions and of our government abrogating its responsibility to fulfil our obligations under the UN Refugee Convention. As Sarah Dale, of the Refugee Advice and Casework Service points out: “This harsh and abhorrent system is designed to punish those who dare to ask for our protection. Lives have been lost, spirits completely broken. The government must act now to provide a permanent settlement solution for people who have already suffered seven years too long. This cannot continue.”

The only reason that these people continue to be held in these completely unacceptable conditions is the lack of political will.


What should the government do?

·      process all outstanding asylum claims without further delays

·      accept the offer of the NZ government to resettle 150 refugees annually

·      evacuate all the remaining asylum seekers and refugees from Nauru and PNG to Australia, with a view to resettlement in the US, in NZ, in other safe third countries, or in Australia

·      release all medevac evacuees into the community, and ensure that they get the medical and other support that they need.


What can you do?

·      Write to Federal MP:  or Immigration Minister Alex Hawke:  and demand that they take action to bring this shameful chapter in our history to an end.

·      Sign up to receive our fortnightly news bulletin.


Published by Bellingen and Nambucca District RAR.

Updated 14.1.21


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