At a full Board meeting yesterday in Hobart, the Australian Council of Social Service expressed its grave concerns about the decision by the Australian Government to return to offshore processing for people arriving by sea to seek asylum in Australia.
The ACOSS board joins a growing number of Australian community and not-for-profit organisations and individuals across the country in expressing opposition to a significant number of the Expert Panel recommendations as they are now being implemented. We unanimously oppose the passage of any legislation which removes adequate legislative protections for people seeking asylum in Australia, and enables the Australian Government to return to offshore processing
Representing Australia’s community and social services sector, the Board opposed the enactment of legislation or policy which will:
- Repeal the few human rights protections included in the offshore processing legislation passed in 2001.
- See any country designated for offshore processing, regardless of whether it is a party to the Refugee Convention.
- Punish asylum seekers who arrive by boat in breach of the Refugee Convention.
- Implement a return to assessing asylum applications in Nauru and Manus Island, ignoring past lessons regarding the mental health impacts of holding people indefinitely with limited freedom of movement.
- Facilitate the removal of child asylum seekers from Australia.
- Facilitate the transfer of unaccompanied minors who will have no guardian to act in their best interests, in breach of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
- Prevent IMAs (whatever their age) from proposing family members for the Special Humanitarian Program (SHP), creating greater incentive for families who want to stay together to travel by boat to Australia.
- Leave open the possibility that boats may be turned back in the future, contravening the Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea.
The Board welcomed the recommendations which will increase Australia’s annual humanitarian intake and additional options for family reunion for refugee and humanitarian entrants, and the greater focus on developing refugee protection options in South East Asia. These positive recommendations in the Expert Panel report must be legislated to ensure they are enshrined in law.
The Board affirmed its previous rejection of offshore processing, represented in a broad community sector statement signed by over 300 organisations in September 2011, opposing offshore processing and calling for community placement of people waiting decisions about their asylum applications.
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For interviews with ACOSS President Simon Schrapel or CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie contact ACOSS Media, 0419 626 155