Act for Peace has joined 16 other NGOs in calling on the Australian Government to abandon policies aimed at punishing asylum seekers and work towards developing a constructive regional framework.
The joint statement, released on 6 June, argues that neither detention in the Pacific nor sending asylum seekers to Malaysia is an acceptable response to the needs of people fleeing their homelands and seeking protection in Australia.
The organisations express concern that the current debate on asylum seekers and refugees places very little emphasis on the factors which lead asylum seekers to flee their homelands.
“The inconvenient truth for Australia’s political leaders is that the majority of asylum seekers who have entered Australia by boat have been found to need protection from persecution. Today, in Australian immigration detention facilities, there are asylum seekers who bear the physical scars of torture, children and adults who have witnessed family members being killed and many people who have had direct threats against their lives. The vulnerability of many asylum seekers must be a primary consideration in any government response to people movement,” they say in the statement.
The statement continues: “The question Australian and international policy makers should focus on is not how to stop the boats but how refugees in Asia-Pacific can receive effective protection. With concerted regional and international effort, much can be done — and much needs to be done — to support countries in South East Asia and South Asia to offer more effective protection to asylum seekers and refugees.”
Alistair Gee, Executive Director of Act for Peace, said, “We, and other organisations, urge the Australian Government to work towards a regional protection framework which has the interests and welfare of refugees and asylum seekers at heart.”