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People smugglers take control of Australia's refugee program.



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THE HON DR SHARMAN STONE MP Federal Member for Murray Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship

Monday 29 June 2009

PEOPLE SMUGGLERS TAKE CONTROL OF AUSTRALIA’S REFUGEE PROGRAM

“More than 1,000 asylum seekers have now arrived in Australia since the Rudd Government softened our border protection policies last August,” Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Dr Sharman Stone said today. “Along with the more than 1,000 intercepted by the Indonesian authorities on our behalf, this means that almost 20% of Australia’s refugee program is controlled by people smugglers.”

“Instead of taking measures to strengthen our borders, or even to “talk” tough, the Labor Government sent another message to people smugglers this week that the back door is still open. Legislation abolishing detention debt was passed by the ALP last week, yet it was a principle that should have been retained.

“The Rudd Government’s softening of a raft of measures designed by former Labor and Coalition Governments to shut down this vile trade is clearly being used by the people smugglers as evidence that Australia has given them the green light to recruit more and more customers; endangering more and more lives.

“These measures include the planned introduction of complementary protection visas, abolishing the 45-day rule, weakening the s.501 character provisions and the Minister’s intervention to approve 650 refugee visas refused by the Refugee Review Tribunal.

“The people smugglers clearly have a well oiled pipeline to Australia and they are taking control of Australia’s refugee program. The Rudd Labor Government is silent about who these people are; where they’ve come from; how many have been given permanent residency; what their connections are with Australia; how long they have been living in safe third countries; and the role of the Minister’s secret “expert panel” in reviewing the department’s decisions to refuse to grant these people visas.

“The need for an inquiry into the linkage between the softening of policy and the surge in arrivals, as called for by the Coalition, is long overdue and its time this Labor Government looked at the evidence and toughened up about people smugglers,” Dr Stone concluded.

Contact: Ann Duffield 0409 842 069