Report highlights Australia’s policy flaws: JRS

Beyond the boats

It’s important that we make both government and the public aware of the travesty that occurs when a country’s moral and legal responsibilities are shirked

A report launched by non-government refugee experts and policy-makers at Canberra’s Parliament House highlights the profound flaws within Australia’s punitive refugee policy, says Jesuit Refugee Service Australia.

The report, titled Beyond the boats: building an asylum and refugee policy for the long term, was launched by the Honourable Fred Chaney AO, Senior Australian of the Year, on 5 November 2014. It is the result of a high-level expert roundtable on asylum and refugee policy held at Parliament House in July under the auspices of Australia21, the Centre for Policy Development (CPD) and the Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law at the University of New South Wales. JRS was represented at the roundtable by its Head of Policy and Advocacy, Oliver White.

“This report highlights the profound flaws within Australia’s punitive refugee policy, and will hopefully raise awareness among politicians of the importance of dealing ethically and responsibly with asylum seekers and of adhering to its legal obligations,” says Mr White.

“It’s important that we make both government and the public aware of the travesty that occurs when a country’s moral and legal responsibilities are shirked, and in this case, redirected to countries like Cambodia which are ill-equipped to deal with them. Beyond the boats sets out the facts, and JRS now calls on the government to acknowledge them.”

The report says that the immigration debate in Australia has become toxic, and that it fails to deal with the complexity of forced migration and its consequences. It urges all parties to construct an overarching national asylum and refugee policy for the long term – including increasing its humanitarian intake and phasing out mandatory detention apart from initial screening.

Furthermore, it recommends expanding pathways for humanitarian settlement, such as via orderly departure arrangements, swift determination of claims and improved conditions including work rights and transitioning away from mandatory detention.

JRS’ recommendations, contained in Beyond the boats, focus on the creation of a standardised system of regional protection for refugees. It recommends that – in line with Jesuit values – such a system be underpinned by principles of justice and compassion. It says such a system should also ensure that refugees are recognised as distinct from other migrants, that funding be increased for the registering and processing of refugees in the Asia Pacific region, and that asylum seekers be issued with temporary work permits and access to public utilities such as schools and hospitals.

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