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Prime Minister does not understand how our refugee laws work.



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senator.barlett@aph.gov.au www.democrats.org.au

DEMOCRATS MEDIA 05/290 TUESDAY 31 MAY 2005 SENATOR ANDREW BARTLETT AUSTRALIAN DEMOCRATS IMMIGRATION SPOKESPERSON PRIME MINISTER DOES NOT UNDERSTAND HOW OUR REFUGEE LAWS WORK Democrats' Deputy Leader, Senator Andrew Bartlett, says comments by the Prime Minister and other Liberal MPs show they have no proper understanding of how the laws relating to asylum seekers and mandatory detention work. "It is no wonder that Coalition MPs are still willing to support mandatory detention, as they clearly have no understanding of how the law actually works and what its real impacts are," Senator Bartlett said. The Refugee Review Tribunal has just found that the Vietnamese couple who gave birth to baby Michael last week, plus 13 others, are refugees, because they faced a real risk of serious persecution if they returned home. Yet Mr Howard was telling Parliament just last week that "it was open to the family return to Vietnam at any time"! "The Prime Minister has also wrongly implied on radio this morning that people who arrive on tourist visas and then seek asylum are detained when the fact is that there is no requirement under the current law for such people to be detained at all." "Presumably the Prime Minster is unaware that there are thousands of asylum seekers living in the community totally legally, many for years, while their claims for refugee status are assessed. Relaxing mandatory detention laws will not affect people who arrive on tourist visas in the slightest." Senator Bartlett said the Prime Minister falsely told Parliament last week - many times - that asylum seekers are in the country illegally. "It is time that the myths lies surrounding mandatory detention were skewered once and for all." • There is no evidence that mandatory detention has worked as a deterrent against asylum seekers. Boat arrivals increased for many years after mandatory detention was introduced and many people who have been imprisoned for a year or more in our detention centres are not asylum seekers at all. • It is wrong to say that people in detention can 'leave any time they like'. There are many cases, such as with Peter Qasim, who cannot go to another country, despite indicating a willingness to do so. • For any politician to suggest that people returning to face persecution is a genuine option is misleading and callous in the extreme. "If even the Prime Minister doesn't have a clue how these cruel and unnecessary laws work, it goes some way to explaining why his Government continues to defend the indefensible." Media inquiries - Senator Bartlett - 0418 743 789 www.andrewbartlett.com News releases can also be sent by email. Please advise us if you want to join the email distribution list.