Australian madness | Press release me, let me go | 14 Aug 2012 | Amnesty International UK

Australian madness

I honestly cannot believe what is happening in Australia at the moment. Right now Australian MPs are debating about whether to re-open offshore detention centres for refugees arriving in the country by boat. It shouldn’t even be a conversation.

Travelling by boat to Australia is one of the most dangerous journeys you can undertake as a refugee and just today Reuters reported that 67 refugees are missing at sea having left Indonesia in late June or early July heading for Australia.

Can you possibly imagine what refugees must be thinking to make such a perilous journey? It’s hardly a pleasure cruise. The reality is that a significant proportion of them have fled torture and persecution in south-east Asian states like Malaysia and Indonesia.

Yes, there’s no doubt that the tragedy of asylum seeker deaths at sea needs to be addressed, but it doesn’t make sense to make them suffer again.

The whole debate is a result of the findings of a so-called ‘panel of experts’ set up by the ruling Labor party. The panel recommended the introduction of ‘processing centres’ in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

Our colleagues in Australia are up in arms about it and sent out a press release yesterday as part of their long-running campaign on refugee rights. It’s a story that has gained traction here in the UK, with the likes of the Morning Star, the Guardian, the Financial Times and Sky News all reporting on it.

What makes the whole debate even more ridiculous is that it’s just singling out boat people. Most refugees coming to Australia arrive by air, which gives the whole debate a distinct whiff of racism.

We even had a couple of Australian sportspeople in the office on Monday looking at the issue before flying back home – and I bet they didn’t get checked for their refugee status on arrival.

Anyway, I hope the Australian Labor party wake up and remember that there was a reason why the camps were closed down back in 2008 – and that was concerns about the human rights of refugees.

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