Dear Sir/ Madam
We are writing to ask you to support Hazara asylum seekers in Australia. We are deeply concerned about the Hazara asylum seekers’ circumstances, and about the resent reports on Australia’s cooperation with Pakistan’s intelligence agencies to stop Hazaras to leave the country which has been described “questionable and sordid” by Amnesty International.
We feel strongly that it is time to re-set the policy direction to ensure that Australia is not violating of basic human rights and breaching the UN Refugee Convention.
Hazaras are the most prosecuted people in the world and have been suffered systematic crimes such as genocide, slavery, forced displacement, war crimes and discrimination. We strongly believe that UN Refugee Convention completely fits to Hazaras situation, not only the Hazaras in Afghanistan but also in Pakistan and Iran.
If government members of Australia want to decrease the number of Hazara asylum seekers, the best option is to put pressure on Afghan, Pakistani and Iranian governments to respect the Hazara rights and insure that they are not under systematic attack and discrimination. In this case, Australia should work closely with international organizations and institutions including UN, European Commission, Amnesty International and International Criminal Court.
In the past, Australia has been recognised as a global leader in terms of human rights. Many Hazaras have been granted asylum and now they are active members of their new society. However, the current policies aimed at deterring people from exercising their right to seek asylum are compromising this, and will erode Australian credibility in terms of advocating for human rights more generally.
The current policies are clearly intended to remove all hope from desperate and vulnerable people who have both a legal and human right to seek protection from Australia. The punitive nature of the policies of deterrence gives lie to the assertion that the Government is motivated by compassion. Drownings at sea are tragic, and additional measures need to be put in place to ensure better surveillance and rescue capabilities to prevent further drownings. Condemning people to indefinite detention in remote island camps with only rudimentary facilities, and denying all hope of family reunion, is not compassionate. Allowing people to live in the community with the same uncertainty about their future, and without the opportunity to support themselves is just setting up an alternative form of desperation.
It is very clear that the misguided policy of off-shore detention on Nauru and Manus Island is quickly becoming a debacle, drawing sharp criticism from human rights groups for the inhumane conditions, and the sense of hopelessness that this approach is designed to produce. The damning report on Nauru just released by Amnesty International is cause for Australian’s to feel deep shame. This report calls for the immediate closure of Nauru, and the immediate recommencement of processing for all asylum seekers who have arrived since 13 August 2012. See detail at: http://www.amnesty.org.au/images/uploads/news/NauruOffshoreProcessingFacilityReview2012.pdf.
The Australian Government can and should put decent asylum seeker policies in place. It is time to abandon the deterrence approaches and adopt new polices which:
• Are based on the premise that people have every right to seek asylum in Australia, irrespective of their means of arrival
• Are proactive in offering immediate protection and support for asylum seekers in the community while their claims are being assessed- to all asylum seekers irrespective of their country of origin
• Focus on processing and reviewing claims in a reasonable time period, and in ways which maximise fairness and transparency
• Provide permanent protection to all those found to be refugees
• Provide resettlement support to all refugees, including employment support to assist their settlement into the community
• Respond to the circumstances in the region which are resulting in larger numbers of people fleeing their countries of origin in search of peace and safety.
The proposed legislation to excise the mainland from the Migration Zone is ludicrous, and should be opposed. If passed, this legislation will draw further adverse international attention to Australia.
Given the circumstances in our region, particularly in Afghanistan and Pakistan, it is clear that significant numbers of people will continue to arrive on Australia’s shores seeking asylum. Australia should not be turning these people away, or punishing them – they are entitled to fair treatment, legal processes to assist them with their claims for asylum, and resettlement in the community when found to be refugees.
Australia is a country of migrants, and it has the capacity to assist much larger numbers of asylum seekers. Australia needs not be fearful of this prospect. It is not about to succumb to ‘invasion’, as the constant rhetoric of ‘border protection’ would suggest. The claim that Australia is generous to refugees is largely overstated. Comparative figures show that Australia ranks 60th in terms of number of refugees resettled relative to GNP, by population ranks 32nd. Reference The Age editorial 24 Nov 2012 http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/editorial/cynicism-mars-the-debate-on-refugees-20121124-29zhm.html
Currently a very large amount of money is spent on denying people their human rights in detention centres on the mainland, and more recently in off-shore centres on Nauru and Manus Island. It would be both financially efficient and morally responsible to close the detention centres, and use these savings to provide for processing claims and resettling refugees in the community.
It is also important that people are not deported where there is doubt about whether they have had the benefit of fair and through assessment and review processes. The threatened deportation of Hazaras to Afghanistan and Pakistan who have not had access to proper assessment process must stop.
Australia can and should adopt a more mature and responsible approach to responding to the human suffering arising from conflict and political oppression in countries is our region. It is time for Labor to show moral leadership on this issue, and provide hope, not despair for asylum seekers, and all those who care about human rights in Australia.
Again, Australia should works closely with international community to insure the safety and security of the Hazaras in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran.
We implore you to do all within your power to agitate for policy change on this important humanitarian issue.