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Seeking asylum a human right, not illegal.

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Sarah Hanson-Young Greens Senator for South Australia

  Tuesday 7 October 2008

Seeking asylum a human right, not illegal

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has demanded a re-think of the way Australia considers asylum seekers, with a reminder that fleeing persecution and seeking refuge is a human right enshrined in international law.

Some recent media reports have stated that ‘illegal migrants’ have been intercepted on the way to Australia.

“The myth that asylum seekers are illegal immigrants must no longer be perpetuated,” said Senator Hanson-Young.

“A term like ‘illegals’ is not only offensive, but also inaccurate.

“It is not illegal to arrive in this country without a visa.”

Senator Hanson-Young said that Australia had a responsibility to assist asylum seekers.

“As a signatory to the 1951 United Nations Geneva Convention on Refugees, and a country that considers itself compassionate and a champion of the ‘fair go’, Australia must step up to its international obligations and reputation and swiftly consider asylum seekers for refugee status.”

Senator Hanson-Young expressed concern about offshore processing of asylum seekers in locations such as Christmas Island.

“The Greens and human rights organisations alike are concerned about the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach to treating people who arrive by boat,” she said.

“The current policy is sustaining a two-class scheme of refugees, with those who arrive by boat severely disadvantaged compared to others.

“The negative physical and mental impact of detaining people in extremely remote detention centres is undeniable.”

Senator Hanson-Young said that the Australian Government and community should reserve their judgement on asylum seekers until their checks had been completed and they had either been granted asylum or not.

“Asylum seekers who arrive by boat must be treated like any other individual seeking asylum in Australia, and undergo identity, health and security checks promptly and fairly.

“While others continue to peddle a myth of fear around asylum seekers, the Greens will continue to campaign for a fairer, more compassionate Australia,” she said.

Senator Hanson-Young will be attending the Migration Joint Standing Committee’s Inquiry hearing into Immigration Detention in Perth and will be available for comment. When: Thursday 9 October (9.15am - 1pm)

Where: Legislative Assembly, Committee Office Room No. 2, 1/11 Harvest Terrace, West Perth

Contact: Gemma Clark on 0427 604 760