No to offshore processing - community processing is the solution
On the 13th of August, the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers released their recommendations, including sending people to Nauru and PNG to be processed and increasing Australia's annual humanitarian intake. The Government and Opposition acted swiftly, passing amendments to the Migration Act which overruled the recent high court decision and would allow asylum seekers who arrive in Australia to be sent to countries like Malaysia or Nauru. Any boat arrivals - including women, chidlren and vulnerable men, arriving after mid August are to be sent to Nauru for offshore processing. This approach is based on a 'no advantage' test for boat arrivals and the belief that there must be a deterrence to stop people getting on boats.
The human, moral and economic failures of offshore processing are well known. It is too simplistic to claim that the Pacific Solution caused the lull in boat arrivals to Australia after 2001. This decrease coincided with major external events such as the fall of the Taliban as the Coalition forces entered Afghanistan and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003. UNHCR statistical data confirms that there was a worldwide decrease in asylum seeker movements – including to countries where deterrent policies such as offshore processing and mandatory detention have not been implemented.
What is conclusive is that offshore processing costs millions of dollars and causes immense harm to vulnerable people. Today in Australia there are people whose health and lives have been destroyed from their experiences on Nauru. Yet, we are embarking on this same flawed policy with renewed vigour and commitment. It will cost $2billion over the next 4 years to re-establish offshore processing on Nauru alone. We know now from extensive medical and academic research that indefinite detention causes harm. Indefinite detention in a remote offshore place has the capacity to cause lifelong damage.
Please call your local member and local newspaper and tell them you do not support offshore processing.
How to take action
Contact your local MP
The best way to advocate for the rights of asylum seekers is to contact your local MP and demand answers. Amnesty Australia have launched an excellent campaign with tips on contacting your MP and asking questions such as
- What will happen to children sent to Nauru - especially those with no one to look after them?
- How long will people languish on Nauru - given that we know long-term detention can cause severe psychological trauma?
- Will independent organisations be able to visit and monitor what is happening on the islands?
Read our response to the expert panel, including joint press release with Malcolm Fraser.
End Mandatory Detention - get kids out of detention
The findings by the exper panel in August 2012 have paved the way for offshore processing to countries such ad Nauru, PNG and possibly Malaysia. If you want to learn more about the problems in Malaysian detention, read our special Malaysia people swap Mythbuster, read Amnesty's Brief here or read our press release on the Malaysia deal announcement.
"Children in detention exhibited symptoms including bed wetting, sleep walking and night terrors. At the severe end of the spectrum, some children became mute, refused to eat and drink, made suicide attempts and began to self-harm, such as by cutting themselves. Some children also were not meeting their developmental milestones" - A Last Resort?: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention (HREOC) 2004
Children in detention
Click here to read our updated children in detention fact sheet.
Click here to read our 29 June 2011 press release on children in detention. On the 29th of June the Government announced that will release 62% of children from detention by their June 30 deadline - leaving 329 children in detention. That's 329 too many.
Click here to read Chillout's latest report (June 2011) into conditions facing children in immigration detention on Christmas Island.
Click here to read the 2011 Child Rights NGO Report - Listen to Children
No one chooses to be an asylum seeker
For asylum seekers, leaving is a matter of life or death – not choice.
- "I cannot go home because of what happened to me. I have no family left. I have no male protection. My father was arrested and my brothers too. The government is after me and my family. They can kill me. I wish sometimes I was dead." (Ethiopia)
- "I was severely prosecuted for the belief of Falun Gong. The police just arrested me, put me away, put me into the detention centre, several times. The longest period was two years in their forced labour camp." (China)
It is not illegal to seek asylum:
- Asylum seekers are neither 'illegal' nor are they immigrants. Immigrants leave by choice and can return at any time. Asylum seekers are forced to leave and cannot return for fear of persecution - such as torture, imprisonment and execution.
- As a signatory to the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, Australia must provide protection to people fleeing persecution, regardless of whether they arrive by air or by sea.
- For the small number of asylum seekers that make it to this part of the world, Australia and New Zealand are the only possible destinations. They are the only two countries in the region that are signatories to the UN Refugee Convention, have a strong human rights record and have the resources to host asylum seekers.
- The detention of children should be used only as a last resort and for the shortest period of time as enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Detaining already vulnerable children has been shown to have catastrophic consequences on their development. Therefore there is a need to incorporate into the Migration Act the rights of children that Australia already recognises through being a signatory to the CRC.
- Currently, the Minister for Immigration is the legal guardian of all unaccompanied minors seeking asylum, which creates a clear conflict of interest seeing that the Minister represents at the same time the detaining authority and the visa decision-maker. The current situation needs to be changed so that the unaccompanied minors seeking asylum could have a legal guardian whose primary consideration is the best interests of the minors. An independent Commissioner for Children and Young People could fulfill this role.
1. Mental health impacts: "Identification and Support of People in Immigration Detention Who are Survivors of Torture and Trauma" - 3 April 2009, Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC): Immigration Detention Torture and Trauma Policy. Read this report to see what the Government recommends should happen to those people who have been tortured and suffered trauma in their countries of origin. Have they not suffered enough to be released as this report recommends? Click here to read the latest new story where the Australian Medical Association criticizes the Government.
2. Children in detention: On the 18th October 2010, the Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced that the majority of asylum seeker children and their families would be released by mid 2011, prioritising unaccompanied minors and vulnerable children. By 30 June 2011, the Government released 62% of children into community detention leaving 329 children in detention. This is 329 too many. See below for our latest fact sheet on children in detention. Click here to read Chillout's June 2011 report into conditions facing children in immigration detention on Christmas Island.
3. Our human rights obligations: It is not illegal to seek asylum. As a signatory to the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, Australia must provide protection to people fleeing persecution, regardless of whether they arrive by air or by sea.
4. Putting things into perspective: Asylum seekers are one of the smallest immigration intakes in Australia (0.3%), from birth rates to visas given for student, skilled, or general migration. Student and travelers on temporary visas are the greatest contributor to this population boom, and birth rates the greatest contributor to population growth.
5. Humane alternatives: There are humane alternatives available in the community for the care and support of asylum seekers. Visit the International Detention Coalition website to read all about the viable alternatives to immigration detention.
What this campaign is aiming to achieve:
- Abolish mandatory detention and employ the more cost effective community settlement alternatives.
- End indefinite detention of asylum seekers. Ensure the grounds for detainment are continually assessed and justified, by making sure the detention of asylum seekers is subject to judicial review within the first 28 days and every 7 days thereafter.
- Change the Migration Act to state that detention of children should be used only as a last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.
- Establish a Commissioner for Children and Young People, to act as legal guardian for unaccompanied minor asylum seekers.
- Abolish offshore processing.
What else can you do?
PASS IT ON
Help make this new short clip viral by sending it on to all your friends and family. 'Give them a voice' was put together by concerned Australians aiming to increase the awareness of conditions facing people, especially children, in detention.
Help us by writing to Minister Bowen to ask him to support the legislation change to exempt children under the age of 18 years from detention. See below for a proforma letter to download, personalise, print, sign and send. Please add your own thoughts to your letter to the Minister. This makes your letter much more powerful and your concerns likely to be considered.
Make a phone call to your local member and ask them to stand up for kids by voting to support the legislation. Find your local member by visiting http://apps.aec.gov.au/esearch/
Download our "Proforma letter to Minister Bowen" for you to personalise, "what the new changes mean for kids in detention", "kids in detention mythbuster" and "get kids out of detention" brochure for more information.
Keep up to date with the most recent cover on this issue by visiting ASRC in the news and reading our latest blog on why detention is no place for a child.
Donate to ASRC's get kids out of detention fund to help us lobby for and campaign to make our next Federal Government promise that no children will be in detention.
Success so far
- Playing a pivotal campaign role in helping see the release of 62% of children that are in detention (there are still over 300 children in detention).
- An end to the policy of children in detention.
- The end of Temporary Protection Visas.
- An end to detention debts.
- The end of the 45-day rule (leading to the right to work for a greater number of asylum seekers).
- The closure of Manus Island and Nauru detention centres.