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ALP refugee policy a disappointment and a disgrace.

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Senator Andrew Bartlett Leader of the Australian Democrats Spokesperson for Immigration

3rd December 2002 MEDIA RELEASE 02/ 578

ALP refugee policy a disappointment and a disgrace

Leader of the Australian Democrats and Immigration spokesperson, Senator Andrew Bartlett, said today Labor’s failure in their ‘new’ refugee policy to address the fundamental flaws and cruelties of the Government’s policy would be a disappointment to millions of Australians.

“The ALP’s refugee policy is still barely distinguishable from the Government’s policy. They have kept the anti-family temporary protection visas, the wasteful Pacific Solution in a new guise, and the unnecessary and inhumane policy of mandatory detention for asylum seekers who arrive without visas,” Senator Bartlett said.

“A basic ingredient of the Pacific Solution was the extended detention of asylum seekers away from public scrutiny and outside of Australian law. The Coalition has wasted hundreds of millions of dollars keeping people outside our legal system and Labor will continue this (in the Indian Ocean), despite the evidence from the ‘Children Overboard’ Inquiry that the Pacific Solution was absurdly expensive and breached Australia’s human rights obligations.

“That Labor has retained the One Nation policy of temporary protection, is a betrayal of genuine refugees,” Senator Bartlett said.

“Thousands of refugees are currently in Australia living with the uncertainty of Temporary Protection Visas and totally inadequate assistance. They have no way of knowing what their future holds. Labor is condemning genuine refugees to ongoing suffering.

“Hundreds of people - mainly Iraqis - are currently in detention centres in Australia and the Government is trying to force them back to Iraq where they risk getting bombed by an Australian-supported military force.

“Whilst we appreciate the Labor commitment to monitoring those who are returned, this will prove impossible when dealing with countries we have a hostile relationship with. Labor’s policy still leaves returned Iraqis to their fate,” Senator Bartlett said.

“Australia needs a system of complementary protection now more than ever. Labor has failed to recognise this.

“We welcome the support for the release of women and children, including unaccompanied minors, into the community whilst fathers are subjected to mandatory detention for three months, but the Government has slowly been introducing that very policy over the past year.

“Where is the brave new Labor? Where is the response to months of soul searching within the ranks?

“I have spoken at dozens of forums with representatives of ‘Labor for Refugees’ who promised Labor would offer an alternative - so far it has come to nothing.

“Labor’s ‘new’ policy is a disgrace, but I urge the millions of Australians who support a fairer go for refugees not to lose heart and to keep pushing for meaningful change. Basic justice will eventually prevail,” Senator Bartlett concluded.

To arrange interview with Senator Bartlett contact 0419 867 649