Asylum seeker debate hits ‘new low’

November 24, 2012

Photo Credit: News.Com.Au

The Federal Government and the Opposition are both facing mounting criticism over the latest round of measures to curb the number of asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat.

The UN’s Refugee Agency is calling for legal principles and compassion to be returned to the debate, while churches, human rights groups and lawyers have slammed both sides of politics, saying the treatment of asylum seekers and policy debate have fallen to a new low.

The Government and Opposition have also been criticised for the way in which they have dealt with recommendations from an expert panel on asylum seekers.

Earlier this week, the Federal Government announced it would release thousands of asylum seekers into the community on bridging visas, but they would not be allowed to work or have access to family reunions.

Meanwhile, the Opposition announced that a future Coalition government would slash Australia’s refugee intake and force those on bridging visas to work for welfare benefits.

Today the Coalition also announced it would introduce a bill to reinstate temporary protection visas (TPVs) in the last week of Parliament.

TPVs force asylum seekers to reapply for refugee status after several years, in case conditions in their home country have changed.


The policy was introduced by the Howard government and abolished in 2008 by Labor.

The Coalition’s Immigration spokesman Scott Morrison says Labor must end its opposition to the policy.

“Temporary protection visas, as Tony [Abbott] has said, are just that – they’re temporary,” he said.

“They’re not a permanent bridge to permanent residency, as the Government’s bridging visa proposal is. At the end of a term of a temporary protection visa, a person’s refugee status is reassessed.”

The UN’s Refugee Agency says it is deeply troubled by the shift towards policies of deterrence – and they are not alone.

Refugee Council of Australia president Phil Glendenning is calling it the “race to the bottom” on asylum policy.

“The Pacific Solution mark two, which is effectively very similar to the Pacific Solution mark one, has clearly not worked,” he said.

“It’s not working – it hasn’t stopped the boats, it hasn’t stopped people coming.

“Our politicians need to get their heads around… [working] with our neighbours to enable those countries to provide rights for people to access work, education and health whilst they wait for their refugee status to be determined.”

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Filed under Asylum Policy, Australian Government and Opposition, Human Rights and Refugee Activists, UNHCR

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