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Democrats: Government continues offensive vilification of asylum seekers.

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Senator Andrew Bartlett Australian Democrats’ Immigration Spokesperson

18 September 2001 MEDIA RELEASE 01/543

Democrats: Government continues offensive vilification of asylum seekers The Australian Democrats have again condemned the repeated statements by government frontbenchers linking boat people to terrorism.

The Australian Democrats Immigration spokesperson, Senator Andrew Bartlett, said statements by Parliamentary Secretary, Peter Slipper, were offensive and potentially racially divisive and dangerous in this current climate of public unease.

Mr Slipper stated that “there is an undeniable linkage between illegals and terrorists.”

This statement follows previous statements by Mr Slipper that those who opposed government legislation on the issue were ‘traitors’, and comments by Minster Peter Reith that boat people could be a “pipeline for terrorists”.

“These repugnant statements are nothing more than racially and politically motivated assertions, which will further inflame the community and serve only to unnecessarily widen the divide among Australians.

“Unfortunately it seems the government has a deliberate strategy to incite public response in a bid to force the Senate into passing a range of draconian and inhumane migration Bills, which will see Australia well-outside of the United Nations Refugee and Human Rights Conventions.

"Knee-jerk and divisive government on the run is not the way to govern this land of ours.”

“It is time for Prime Minister Howard to repudiate these disgraceful statements, and to urgently seek to take a constructive cross-party approach in dealing with the international issue of asylum seekers.

“The question of asylum seekers and refugees is set to become an even more pressing issue for Australia, particularly if the US and the International Coalition invade or bombard Afghanistan.

“The Prime Minister must make it clear to his ministers that the issues of asylum seekers and terrorism are very different, and that it is irresponsible to try and link the two,” said Senator Bartlett.

"Already there have been widespread reports of harassment and abuse of Muslims in Australia, which shows how volatile the current situation is. It is crucial that there is no further antagonism generated toward Muslims or refugees."

"The cold blooded and heartless terrorist attacks in the US, last week, show exactly why men, women and children desperately flee persecution and tyranny to seek asylum in other parts of the world,” concluded Senator Bartlett.

For interview: Senator Bartlett on 0418 743 789 or (02) 6277 3406