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letter to Hartsuyker off shore detention September 2014

Dear Mr Hartsuyker,

I write to  express my utter dismay at the government's latest tactic to keep asylum seekers from our shores, namely the shameful plan to resettle up to 1,000 refugees from Nauru in Cambodia.

Cambodia is a very poor country, with an appalling human rights record. Corruption is endemic and there is ample evidence of the widespread disregard for the rule of law. The country sits at 138 out of 187 on the Human Rights Index, and is placed 160th on the Corruption Index of the 177 countries surveyed.  

It is clear, given Cambodia's very poor record in relation to its treatment of refugees, that the safety of asylum seekers currently languishing indefinitely in offshore detention centres cannot possibly be guaranteed by the Australian government. 

Let us not forget that the High Court rejected Labor's  "Malaysia Solution" in 2011 on the grounds that the government could not guarantee the safety of refugees sent to Malaysia. How can this government, therefore, pretend that these helpless people will be safe in Cambodia? It cannot, and in the name of humanity, the plan should be dropped immediately.

It seems that refugees can be settled anywhere, except in Australia. For purely political reasons - because, after all, there are votes in the "stop the boats" sloganeering - the government is prepared to do whatever it takes to avoid its obligations to asylum seekers who are in need of our protection. 

This government, of which you are a senior member, has been regularly condemned in forthright terms by Christian leaders across the country, by UNHCR, by the Human Rights Commissioner, by prominent human rights groups and by a host of leading Australian figures. 

They are all  well-informed, principled, thinking and compassionate people, but their views seem not to trouble you. It is simply not good enough for you to tell us that we are all "well intentioned, but naive."

The government appears to have learned nothing from our past failures as a nation: the institutionalised sexual abuse of children, the stolen generation, the forgotten generation. Are we expected to look the other way, once again? 

The Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce is surely right when it states, in its recent report about unaccompanied children in detention: "This is state sanctioned child abuse which the Taskforce believes will warrant a Royal Commission." 

Do you believe that it is acceptable to use children as a deterrent in this way?

At some point in the future, you and your government will surely be held to account for your shameful actions. It is outrageous that you continue to treat asylum seekers, especially children, with such cruelty and inhumanity. 

Will you now acknowledge the damage that you are doing to these young people, who have committed no crime, and close all offshore detention centres immediately?

Yours sincerely,


September 2014

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