JRS calls for regional cooperation following high-level roundtable

Roundtable Participants

“This unanimity is promising since it dovetails with JRS’ position that Australia’s refugee problem lies not with the insecurity of its borders but in the lack of durable solutions for refugees elsewhere in the region.”

Jesuit Refugee Service has reiterated its call for the implementation of durable solutions to Asia Pacific’s refugee crisis following a recent high-level roundtable on Australia’s asylum seeker policy.

Jointly organised by Australia21, the Andrew and Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law at UNSW and the Centre for Policy Development, the roundtable was held at Parliament House in Canberra attended by 35 high-level policy makers and refugee experts. Among them were a former Indonesian Ambassador to Australia, a Malaysian strategist and parliamentarians from three of the four major parties.

Discussions centred on the creation of a long-term framework for Australia’s asylum seeker policy. The meeting’s ultimate goal was to consider how Australia might facilitate a sustainable immigration policy that balances protection, safety, transparency and prosperity.

“This roundtable marked the start of a new conversation about a complex policy area that has been a political hot potato for too long. It aims to be a contribution which is helpful to all sides of the political spectrum and which reflects Australian values,” said Steering Committee members Bob Douglas, Jane McAdam and Travers McLeod.

While the roundtable did not seek to reach consensus, participants agreed on the importance of implementing fair, transparent and efficient refugee status determination procedures, wherever processing takes place.

“This unanimity is promising since it dovetails with JRS’ position that Australia’s refugee problem lies not with the insecurity of its borders but in the lack of durable solutions for refugees elsewhere in the region,” says Oliver White, roundtable participant and JRS’ Head of Policy and Advocacy.

“No single measure will stop boat arrivals in Australia, and in fact ‘stopping the boats’ should not be the government’s core objective. Instead, it should be part of a broader regional approach which manages the movement of people and which places the protection of asylum seekers ahead of national politics and border protection.”

Mr White praised the organisers of the roundtable, saying that encouragement of a bipartisan approach was essential to the creation of an effective regional migration framework.

“A regional approach to asylum must address the protection of refugees as a result of their onward movement, and it must be acknowledged that often the reason refugees continue to move onwards is the lack of protection in transit countries,” he says.

“Australia can play a role in encouraging other states to sign the Refugee Convention and can share knowledge, experience and resources to increase the capacity of those states to process and integrate refugees into their communities.”

The roundtable was conducted under the Chatham House Rule and was informed by a discussion paper coordinated by CPD titled ‘Beyond Operation Sovereign Borders: a long-term asylum policy for Australia‘. Two former senior Immigration Department officials, Peter Hughes and CPD Fellow Arja Keska-Nummi were the lead authors. The paper can be read here.

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