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Greens take proposal for safer pathways to cross-party meeting on refugees



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Wednesday, 27 June 2012

MEDIA RELEASE

Greens take proposal for safer pathways to cross-party meeting on refugees

After consultations with experts in refugee law and protection from the Asia-Pacific region, the Greens will this morning work with concerned parliamentarians to begin negotiating a way through the current impasse on immigration policy.

"The Greens approach these talks with ideas we've gathered from our discussions with refugee experts from across the region including Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia," Greens' immigration spokesperson, Sen. Sarah Hanson-Young, said.

“In talks with Asia-Pacific humanitarian and refugee agencies yesterday representatives urged Australia to uphold our obligations to the Refugee Convention and international law.

“The experts insisted that working collectively with our regional neighbours to strengthen protections for asylum seekers in Malaysia and Indonesia, while their claims are assessed by the UNHCR, is the only way to reduce the need for people to board boats.

“They asked Australia to work directly with their countries’ officials towards safer options and safe pathways for people seeking asylum.

"There is a serious concern from those working on refugee protection issues that Australia’s push for offshore processing actually undermines their efforts, as it leads to other countries not giving asylum seekers protection. This ultimately leads to desperation, uncertainty and more people getting onto dangerous boats.

“Earmarked funding to the UNHCR to improve assessments of asylum claims throughout the region, and the establishment of an Australian Ambassador for Refugee Protection to manage high-level diplomacy to achieve regional response and co-operation, are among the specific things they have asked Australia to do urgently.

“The Greens are prepared to work hard with other Australian politicians to develop new and safe pathways for asylum seekers in line with what Amnesty International, the UNHCR and the refugee protection organisations from our region say is needed.

"We need a regional response which involves our neighbours because, without them, there will be no long-term answers or humane options for desperate men, women and children.

"Yesterday the Greens announced we would help create a multi-party committee on asylum policy based on a commitment to human rights law and the 1951 Refugee Convention.

"Today we approach the group of concerned parliamentarians in a spirit of goodwill with suggestions from experts in Southeast Asia that we hope will be adopted by all parties."

MEDIA CONTACT: PARIS LORD 0427 604 760

27 June 2012/page 1

Safe Pathways for Asylum Seekers and Refugees Possibilities for a Regional Solution

SENATOR SARAH HANSON-YOUNG

The Greens are seeking a humane and effective system of regional cooperation on refugee issues.

A regional solution would be an interconnected arrangement between three categories of nations: countries of origin, countries of first asylum and countries of resettlement.

We've drawn on the advice of refugee and human rights experts in Australia and consulted with NGOs from Asia-Pacific nations.

Australia needs to establish a regional solution with neighbouring governments which has:

A central emphasis on human rights for refugees and asylum seekers in line with international law and our Refugee Convention obligations

Safety within, and safe pathways from, transit countries so that desperate people no longer believe that their only option is to board a risky boat

Consistent standards of reception, assessment and protection across the region

Fair and consistent refugee assessments in each country, including independent monitoring and judicial review of decisions

Assessments within a reasonable timeframe by the UNHCR.

Australia should:

Take a lead role in forging a multilateral agreement to make the regional solution a success

Establish an Australian Ambassador for Refugee Protection to assist the government with high-level advocacy in the region

Increase Australia's humanitarian intake to show good faith and leadership in our region

Resettle significantly more refugees from Indonesia and Malaysia (we only take 60 per year on average at present)

Generate better intelligence and cooperation to stop people boarding boats in the first place - e.g. working with Indonesian airport, police and military

Demonstrate best practice in assisting asylum seekers, which would mean continuing on-shore processing of people who make a claim once in Australia, legislating time limits on detention and urgently improving other aspects of immigration detention in Australia

Set up a parallel NGO process to the Bali Process to foster the engagement of NGOs across the region in refugee protection issues.

Australia is a safe, prosperous and generous country. Our community has already been enriched by generations of immigrants and refugees who have made Australia their home.

As one of the key nations in the region who has signed the Refugee Convention it makes sense for Australia to lead the way and set the standard when it comes to resolving the humanitarian crisis on our doorstep.

27 June 2012/page 2

What would a Regional Solution need?

In countries of origin

More resettlement directly from refugee producing countries

Increased diplomatic efforts to address asylum and displacement issues in refugee producing countries.

In countries of first asylum

Make sure clear and trustworthy information is available to asylum seekers about the processes of application and resettlement, which mean people will be less likely to believe they have no option except boarding a boat

Humane conditions of reception and protection, including services to sustain an adequate standard of living, and protection against refoulement

Directly fund civil society groups and NGOs to provide education, training, health services and capacity building initiatives in countries which lack formal refugee rights to provide genuine protection while asylum seekers wait

Use safeguards and oversight to ensure that repatriation is genuinely voluntary and enables people to return home with dignity.

In countries of resettlement

Clear commitments to ensure that responsibility for refugee protection is shared equitably by resettlement states, including commitment to resettlement quotas. Resettlement states could include industrialized countries from outside our region

Continue to expand on regional structures and developments through the Bali Process and the UNHCR Working Group on Resettlement

Investment in lobbying participating countries to sign the Refugee Convention and develop domestic legislation in accordance with human rights obligations.