What is the current policy?

The government has made it clear that indefinite offshore detention will continue, and that the approximately 870 men and women detainees will remain on Nauru and Manus island. None of them will ever be resettled in Australia. The New Zealand government’s offer to take 150 refugees a year from Manus and Nauru has been rejected. The agreement to resettle refugees in the US is moving at a glacial pace, and the Trump administration is reluctant to accept refugees from a number of countries, including Iranians, Somalis, Syrians and Iraqis. Many of them have had their requests for resettlement in the US rejected, which has added to their despair.

What is the Coalition’s rationale?

The government places great emphasis on “protecting” our borders. They insist that offshore detention is essential to protect our borders, to prevent deaths at sea, and to deny the people smugglers their lucrative trade. They also insist that any relaxation of the current policy, such as agreeing to accept the NZ offer to resettle refugees, would create a “pull” factor which would lead to a new influx of boat arrivals, and that refugees resettled in NZ could at a later date enter Australia by the “back door”.

Is this a credible policy stance?

The assertion that offshore detention is essential to defeat the people smugglers, to prevent deaths at sea and to protect our borders is neither honest, humane, nor morally defensible. We have an armada of naval ships to our north, which has prevented asylum seekers from reaching our shores from Indonesia.  Some 33 boats, with more than 800 people on board, have been intercepted and turned back. No boats have reached our shores. No lives have been lost at sea. It is this naval blockade, not the ongoing torture of indefinite detention, that has stopped the boats, denied the people smugglers their trade, and prevented deaths at sea.

Maintaining offshore detention, therefore, serves no humanitarian purpose and does not help to keep our borders secure. In any case, how can any government use detainees as human shields  to deter others? That is morally reprehensible. Offshore detention, then, is a political strategy, designed and prosecuted by politicians who lack principle or humanity. The key priority seems to be to appear to be tough in order to wedge the opposition. The detainees in offshore detention are the acceptable collateral damage.

What does all this mean for the detainees?

The approximately 870 people who remain trapped indefinitely on Manus and Nauru have been held in captivity for up to six years, with little hope for their future. They have committed no crime, but their lives and wellbeing are being sacrificed in pursuit of a punitive political agenda. Twelve men have died. Many others have self-harmed, and most of those who remain have significant mental health and other health problems. In the week following the re-election of the Morrison government, more than twelve men on Manus made suicide attempts, such is the depth of their despair.

What can we do?

We can telephone the office of the Prime Minister to explain our objections to the cruel, inhumane and indefensible policy of indefinite offshore detention. Tel: 02 6271 5111

We can telephone the office of Home Affairs Minister Dutton to demand that the government accepts the offer of the New Zealand government to resettle 150 refugees per annum from Nauru and Manus. Tel:  02 6277 7860, or email him at: .

You can join our group, one of more that 80 RAR groups in Australia, to campaign for a more compassionate country.

Published by Bellingen and Nambucca District Rural Australians for Refugees. Email: .    Created: 29.5.19

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