At the May 2019 Federal Elections, the Coalition parties won a majority of seats in the House of Representatives, and while short of an outright majority in the Senate, have secured a strong position from which to govern for the next three years.
How asylum seekers are treated is a political, social and moral issue – political because politicians have used the treatment of refugees as a very effective tool to polarise public attitudes and achieve political success; social because we see ourselves and our society reflected in the way we treat refugees; and moral because the treatment Australia has meted out to refugees has often been unfair, unjust, morally wrong.
The electoral security delivered to the Government by the recent Elections presents an opportunity for our politicians to stop using refugees as pawns in a gruesome game of who can be toughest and nastiest. It is time to extend peace and compassion towards refugees, and to allow the Australian people to return to our better natures, and to give refugees, at last, a fair go.
We have seen asylum seekers and refugees on Manus Island attempting suicide since the Elections, as they face a future without hope. The Refugee Council of Australia
estimates there are still 915 asylum seekers and refugees on Manus and Nauru.
In Australia, there are many thousands of people who arrived by boat before 2014 still awaiting decisions of their applications for protection, the so-called “legacy caseload”, while thousands more await the outcome of the Immigration Assessment Authority (IAA) process. Thousands more again have been accepted as refugees, and placed on Temporary Protection Visas and Safe Haven Enterprise Visas on the presumption that they may be returned to their countries of origin at some point in the future. In the meantime they cannot be reunited with their families, their lives are on hold. This is causing untold misery and mental breakdown to many thousands of people who did no more than seek asylum in our nation, as they are fully entitled to do.
We have asked the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and their senior ministers to reach a humane resolution for refugees on the following issues:
• urgent resettlement of the remaining refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru to suitable destinations including Australia
• Grant permanent resident status to people who have qualified for Australia’s protection (TPV and SHEV holders)
• Grant amnesty and permanent resident status to people who have not been able to qualify for protection but who cannot be returned to their country of origin who have lived in Australia for an agreed time
• Quick resolution of the claims of many thousands of people caught for years in the “legacy caseload” and IAA review systems
• Provision of basic financial and medical support for asylum seekers living in Australia whose claims are still to be assessed.
Add your voice to ours, and ask your local Members of Parliament
to encourage their leaders at this time of relative political calm to extend peace and compassion towards refugees, and to allow the Australian people to give refugees, at last, a fair go.
* Organisations that contributed to the letters include: