On Sunday 13th April 2014 thousands of Australians attended peaceful rallies around the nation to express their concern over current policy approaches to asylum seekers and refugees. The ACOSS Board stands together in echoing this deep concern.
There is currently a significant gap between Australia’s human rights obligations under international law and our treatment of asylum seekers and refugees. As key representatives from the community and social services sector, who have expertise working with people in Australia who have been severely traumatised, including by long term and indefinite detention, we unanimously call on both the Government and Opposition to adopt a more humane approach.
The ACOSS Board urges our political leaders to increase the accountability and transparency of Australia’s immigration detention facilities by committing to regular, publicly accountable independent monitoring. The establishment of an independent monitoring mechanism is particularly important in the case of Australia’s off-shore immigration facilities, due to their remoteness and the current lack of transparency about operations in those locations. For instance, there is currently no monitoring or advisory body regarding the Manus Island regional processing facilities, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has described conditions on Manus Island as both harsh and below international standards. The establishment of an independent and accountable monitoring mechanism is therefore vital in ensuring that conditions in Australia’s immigration detention facilities do not violate human rights standards.
We also urge the Government to provide full disclosure about off-shore detention facilities, including providing the Australian public with information about the costs of running offshore processing systems. There are significant budget savings to be made by ending the offshore processing system. These funds could be better invested in community services to provide adequate support to asylum seekers, the majority of whom have historically been found to be refugees and have gone on to make a valuable contribution to the Australian community as citizens and tax payers.
The ACOSS Board reaffirms our previous strong opposition to offshore processing and mandatory detention. We continue to urge the Government to commit to processing asylum claims within the Australian community, and call on the Government to work with the community and social services sector to develop processes which ensure asylum seekers can be placed, and assessed, with the least trauma to enable either the beginning of a new life in a safer country, or to enable them to be safely returned to their country of origin, should their claim for refugee status be unsuccessful.
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