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Coastguard must rescue, not repel asylum seekers.

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Senator Andrew Bartlett Leader of the Australian Democrats Spokesperson for Immigration and Defence

27th November 2002 MEDIA RELEASE 02/567

Coastguard must rescue, not repel asylum seekers

The Democrats may back the ALP’s Coastguard proposal if it includes a ‘rescue not repel’ practice in regard to asylum seekers, said the Leader of the Australian Democrats, Senator Andrew Bartlett.

“The Coastguard proposal will not work effectively while we are still continuing with the so-called Pacific Solution,” he said.

Senator Bartlett said the Navy was presently being misused on the Pacific Solution and the Democrats would not support the same policies being enforced by a Coastguard.

“Too many of our military and financial resources are committed to the so-called Pacific Solution - targeting those fleeing persecution rather than genuine threats to Australia’s safety and security.”

Senator Bartlett said the recent Inquiry into a Certain Maritime Incident revealed that the haste in which the Pacific Solution policy had been implemented before the 2001 election had resulted in a lack of coordination across existing defence and intelligence agencies over border protection at sea.

“The Government has tried to blame Defence procedures for problems with the Pacific Solution - such as boats sinking and false Government claims about children overboard - but the fact is, Defence has only been enforcing Government policy,” Senator Bartlett said.

“The Democrats would want to know that if the Coastguard encountered an unsafe boat overloaded with asylum seekers, the Coastguard would rescue them, not tow them out from Australian waters, as the Navy is presently instructed to do.

“There is a world of difference between approaching a boatload of arms or drugs smugglers and a boatload of asylum seekers, and border protection policies should recognise that difference,” concluded Senator Bartlett.

To arrange interview with Senator Bartlett contact 0419 867 649