Foundation House contributes to public discussion on asylum seeker policies15-Jul-2009
The federal government’s new policy direction is a more humane and effective way to process asylum seekers according to Foundation House director Paris Aristotle.
Mr Aristotle was speaking at a public forum held at Melbourne’s Federation Square on May 13th. Panel members included David Manne, coordinator of the Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre, John Gibson, President of the Refugee Council of Australia, Caz Coleman, Director of the Hotham Mission Asylum Seeker Project, and Bruce Baird, Former Liberal MHR.
Chaired by ABC Radio National’s Peter Mares, the free public discussion addressed concerns over the recent surge in unauthorised boat arrivals, the new border protection policies announced in the budget and the federal government’s new policies around offshore and onshore detention and processing, temporary protection visas, abolition of the “45-day rule” to granting work rights and health care access to asylum seekers, and a host of other initiatives.
Responding to a question about a possible link between “the softening of Australia’s policy” and the resurgence of people smuggling, Mr Aristotle commented that the real issue is the difference between a “link” and a “cause” and although the government needed to address people smuggling “the answer is not to take the victims of that trade and make their lives absolutely miserable in order to deter an industry that doesn’t care about what happened to them in the first place.”
Mr Aristotle went on to say that the protection afforded under the Refugee Convention had nothing to do with how wealthy someone was or the mode of entry they managed to obtain, but whether or not they were found to be in need of protection. “Persecutory regimes don’t do a means test of your income level…they basically target people on the grounds of race, religion, political beliefs, social grouping…” he said.
Describing the success of a small community care pilot working with asylum seekers, which will now be rolled out nationally, Mr Aristotle commented: “What we’re beginning to prove is that we can process people and manage it here in a way that doesn’t destroy lives, but still managed to protect the integrity of the Convention which calls for us to protect people who need it and return people who don’t.”
To access a full transcript of the forum, which was organised by the Institute for the Study of Global Movements at Monash University, click here
To access the audio, click here