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Refugee week: fairness and consistency should be the message

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Philip Ruddock MP Federal Member for Dundas Shadow Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs

Electorate Tel: (02) 858 1011 Fax: (02) 804 6739

Parliament House Tel: (06) 277 4343 Fax: (06) 277 2062



It is appropriate to consider the plight of the world's 17 million refugees this week.

Australia's record, over time, has been outstanding in areas of resettlement of refugee claimants, assistance for those in refugee camps abroad and the proper accommodation of those who make claims within Australia.

The only substantial blemish on this record was in relation to the treatment of PRC nationals in Australia at the time of the Tienanmen Square massacre.

Case-by-case determination was the proper approach to take in order to give protection to those in genuinue need of it.

Prime Minister Hawke's intervention still undermines public perception of fair treatment for those with bona fide claims.

Following the debacle with the Chinese students in particular and the grant of 4-year temporary protection to claimants, our rules for determination of refugee status and consideration of humanitarian issues are no longer regarded as fair.

Week by week claims are mounted for treatment on exactly the same basis whether they are from Sri Lankans or Lebanese whose countries are wracked by civil war, or the Philippines and Bangladesh again plagued by natural calamity.

Arguments mounted to put forward case-by-case determination of claims are thus gpshed to one side.

The Minister rightly points out that our ability to assist those with the most pressing claims from abroad are diminished by accommodating those who are already here or those who arrive

undocumented on our shores.



While Australia grapples with the issue of Cambodian boat people it should be recognised that only those lucky enough to make it here are able to pres claims, often in advance of those whose needs are more urgent.

Fairness, objectivity and resolution are the key words that Minister Hand needs to keep in mind if consistency in decision making is again to be re-established.

Case-by-case determination of claims, against internationally recognised criteria, fairly reached, is absolutely essential. This is the Opposition's position. Courage is needed now to ensure that deserving cases are quickly and promptly heard.

To ensure that this message is clearly understood by all those, wherever they may be from, who need our help, those without bona fide claims or refugee or proper humanitarian claims should be promptly removed from Australia.

Anything less sends a completly wrong signal to those who wish to circumvent the proper entry arrangements and sabotage efforts to accept those who most deserve our compassion.

June 16 1991