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Beyond Bilo

Advocates look to RESET Australia’s Refugee Policy After #HometoBiloela

Media Release 12 June 2022

“This is a weekend of rejoicing for thousands of Australians as Priya, Nades, Kopika and Tharnicaa returned home to Biloela. Their fabled journey of suffering and abuse and yesterday’s fanfare return to Biloela have been very public.

It is a story that resonates with warm Australians on a deep human, almost mythical, level. We feel proud to be generous and compassionate,” reflected Fabia Claridge, co-convener of People Just Like Us.

“We have fixated on confected racist false narratives for too long.”

The ordeals of this iconic refugee family are not unique. Australia needs the contribution of migrants and refugees on all levels,” says PJLU (People Just Like Us).” (1)

Refugee organisation “People Just Like Us” (or PJLU) is calling for ALL refugees and asylum seekers on Bridging Visas to be given permanent protection: not just TPV & SHEV holders. (2)

“Let’s not kowtow to the Shadow cabinet. They are no longer in government. Progressives have been elected instead.

Forever finding reasons NOT to act on asylum seekers has proven morally and politically debilitating. It is to give in to racist slurs and xenophobia. As Bill Shorten has found with NDIS, it is also a lawyers’ picnic at taxpayer expense. Let’s quickly settle the refugee backlog, so we have oxygen for the other enormous issues we need to tackle as a nation,” Claridge said.

“First, the minister of immigration has ‘god powers’ legislated by the LNP. Why not use them to cut through the red tape, the endless court hearings and reviews, the before and after dates, the Kafkaesque morass – all designed to delay and block?”

Next, when we see the decisive action announced this week by Foreign Minister Senator Wong to grant 3,000 visas per year, giving Pacific Islanders a pathway to permanency, we see how easy it is to act when you really want to. We applaud this. It shows that where there is a will, there IS a way.

“We applaud that Labor has already promised to give permanent residency to people holding Temporary Protection visas and SHEV visas. They are already here working by our side, sitting on the train next to us, paying taxes. They just need security and safety so they can help build a better, more harmonious future. No one need be left behind, as Prime Minister Albanese has said.”

“Thousands of others (families, sons, daughters, husbands, fathers, mothers) are in the same predicament as the Nadesalingam family. All are the victims of a flawed and biased system under the Liberal government for the last 9 years. Bullied into silence, they have been deliberately kept secret. They too have lived in fear of deportation to danger. Many, like the Tamil family, come from persecuted groups within danger zones such as the Rohingya and the Hazara from Afghanistan.”

An “amnesty” or permanent truce in the war on refugees would be a logical step in the refugee policy reset.

While not every asylum seeker coming by boat has a strong claim, Australia has illegally detained and tortured them (according to the Refugee Convention) for more than 9, 10 years. They have actually been persecuted by our government under our own cruel refugee policy. Therefore, they deserve the permanent protection/ residency from Australia.

An important aspect of this is to decouple refugees issues from national “security” concepts. This false narrative has debased our whole nation,” concludes Ms Claridge. “Mode of arrival has nothing to do with refugee needs, character, skills or objectives.”

Credlin must acknowledge that cruelty does not work. The boats never actually stopped. Stealthy turnbacks or refoulements occurred constantly.

Secondly, the incoming Australian Federal Government is urged to work with UNHCR and Indonesia to set up the “safe passage” for refugees trapped in Indonesia.

“This cohort of refugees in Indonesia are clearly within the purview of Australia since they have been warehoused there for almost a decade at the behest of Australia and at our expense”, says Claridge.

“They are about 13,700 in number. Half are Afghan. Stateless Rohingya languish there, too. Previous governments have paid to maintain a secretive network of detention centres throughout Indonesia (via IOM).

Some of those have now been closed, but refugees are still trapped there with no work rights, no study rights and no right to travel internally within Indonesia. Indonesia is not a signatory to The Refugee Convention. It is also a multi-racial nation facing economic challenges.

“Indonesia is an open prison for stranded refugees. People cannot plan a future or get on with their lives. Record rates of refugee suicide are testimony to desperation and despair. This system is deliberately designed to steal essential hope. Daily protests on the streets are met with police bashings. Sadly, during Prime Minister Albanese’s visit to Makassar some of our friends were forcibly locked up so that they could not protest.”

“By making a visit to Indonesia a top priority this week Prime Minister Albanese and Foreign Minister Wong established that they esteem collegiate relations with our near neighbour. Both in Asia and in the Pacific, they understand it’s time for Australia to embrace equality and to end the arrogant colonial behaviour of the previous government.”

Ms Claridge emphasised, “It is both neighbourly and strategic to resolve this backlog of suffering on our doorstep.”

“People Just Like Us is therefore calling for a one-off intake of refugees from Indonesia to clear the backlog at source. This is where most boats come from. Give people a better option and they will never risk their children’s’ lives on a boat. Time and again we have been told that.

Given the hiatus in migrant intake over the past few years, it is a perfect time to do this. Australia currently needs all sorts of workers, skilled and ‘unskilled’”. (3)

“A one-off intake of refugees from Indonesia can demonstrate Australia’s willingness to reset the whole future of regional cooperation in the refugee space. A regional solution reset would systematically manage the flow of people through SE Asia rather than merely deter desperate people by creating insurmountable blockages.”

For details, please contact People Just Like Us.

Notes:

(1) “Raising Australia’s refugee intake would boost economy by billions, Oxfam says” by Helen Davidson (The Guardian, 28 Aug 2019).

(2) The number of those who need asylum has not been transparent and needs clarification: roughly 29,210 in total; including BVs (Backlog) 9,705, PNG, Nauru and Medevac around 500 (less those opting to go to US, NZ and CA), and TPVs and SHEV holders roughly 19,000.

(3) “When we open up, open up big: economists say we need more migrants” by Peter Martin (The Conversation, 20 Feb 2022).

 

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4 comments

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  1. Keitha Granville

    YES, absolutely. Never mind how they came, or want to come, we know we need them so just do it !!!
    It sends no other message than Australia is a compassionate nation of human beings.

  2. Lynette Dorothy Faragher

    At last a sense of light at the end of the tunnel. But we also need policy change as well as attitude change among ‘ordinary Australians’. Bring it on.

  3. Terence Mills

    That’s one battle where finally common sense has been brought to bear and the Murugappan family is back in Biloela.

    It is still very apparent that the Dutton opposition are using the international foghorn to stir up people smugglers by implying that the new Labor government have opened up the flood gates for boat people to take on the dangerous ocean journey.

    We need to speak out every time Dutton and his gang try to inflame the situation with dog-whistling to offshore people smugglers.

    The next challenges in this area of human rights are the vindictive prosecution of Bernard Collaery and the need to fully investigate what occurred with the bugging of the Timor Leste parliamentary offices – a Royal Commission would not be out of place – the extent to which the new government will be prepared to take this enquiry remains to be seen.

    And then we need to address the situation with Julian Assange’s punitive extradition to the US which has now been flicked to the British Home Secretary to make a final (political ?) decision on.

    The two part documentary Ithaka has been on ABC free to air and is worth watching : https://iview.abc.net.au/show/ithaka-a-fight-to-free-julian-assange

  4. Albos Elbow

    Lets extend that humanitarian warm welcome to the thousands of other refugees in Australia and those in great need to flee their own homes by risking their lives in hazardous boat journeys.

    Instead of towing them back, we should provide them safe passage to their new homes.

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