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Letter: To:, Subject: Detention of asylum seekers

Dear Mr Conaghan,

A Biloela family of refugees
M... Griffin has shown me your email reply, dated 5-8-2020, to his email of 27-7-2020 (Seven years too long).

I must take issue with you on several issues in your reply.

You make the point, on several occasions, that these people detained in onshore and off-shore detention facilities are illegal, have attempted to arrive in Australia illegally, or are attempting to subvert our immigration system. If what they have done is illegal can you please point out to me which law of the criminal code they have violated? Have any of these asylum seekers been charged with this crime? Have any of these asylum seekers been tried for this crime?

four million displaced Syrians currently residing in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan
Refugees locked up indefinitely in Mantra Hotel Melbourne
Under international law (specifically the 1951 Refugee Convention) it is not illegal to seek asylum if one has a well founded fear of persecution. So, arriving in a leaky boat and claiming asylum is not illegal. I understand that Australia is a signatory to the Convention so it appears to me that it is the Australian Government that is acting illegally by refusing asylum to those in our detention system who are genuine refugees.

Under international law, immigration detention is supposed to be administrative and temporary, not punitive. I believe that this is the thrust of Mike Griffin's letter, that the continued detention of these people for seven years can be considered punitive. I despair that our laws descend into a state where punitive measures are considered normal, that everyone is considered to be a potential criminal trying to "flout" or "circumvent" the law, rather than trying to seek the justice in any particular situation.

You also state that refugees have the option to return to their own country. I think you will find that the reason they have been classified as refugees is because they cannot return to their own country.

four million displaced Syrians currently residing in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan
Free Mantra refugees
You state that these people can choose to reside permanently in Nauru or PNG. I do not think that either of these countries is a safe place to reside. The Smart Traveller website does not make PNG out to be particularly safe. For people fleeing persecution it is not a viable option for most of them.

I have watched the evolution of Australia's asylum seeker policy over the past twenty years and it is as depressing as it is inhumane. International migration is an issue to be managed, not a problem to be solved. It does nobody any good to keep the people in our detention centres in a continuous state of punitive incarceration. We could save a lot of money and the LNP could gain a lot of kudos by finally taking responsibility for the situation and settling all these people into the community. Just do it quickly and quietly and move on to more important issues.

I would hate to be so cynical as to believe that the continued detention of vulnerable people was for political purposes.

four million displaced Syrians currently residing in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan
Free refugees from Australian detention
Your claim that Australia has one of the most generous humanitarian programs in the world can not go unchallenged. While not wanting to denigrate the good work that is done in this area it is also true that foreign aid has been cut severely over the past seven years by the LNP federal government. While we accept less than 20,000 people through refugee migration per year it pales into insignificance to the four million displaced Syrians currently residing in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. Whatever good work we do is poisoned by the petty and vindictive way we treat asylum seekers who arrive by boat.

Some new thinking is required by you and your government to resolve this issue.


Dr Peter XXXXX

four million displaced Syrians currently residing in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan
Fair go for Refugees

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