We need to take action immediately to save the lives of desperate people coming to us for protection. Our proposals would give desperate people across the region less reason to board dangerous boats and can be adopted immediately.
Please share this page with your friends and family, and talk to people about what we're proposing. We can save lives starting today if we make that our priority. Then, we can craft a long-term, fair, legal and genuine regional solution - one that has the wellbeing of people at its core.
What are the Greens doing today?
The Greens have brought forward proposals in the Senate to act immediately to save lives.
Our amendments would give desperate people across the region less reason to board dangerous boats, and the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader can agree to move forward with this action to save lives and help people immediately, without legislation.
The Greens called today in the Senate for the Government to take immediate action to save lives, including
- Immediately increasing funding to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees by $10 million to boost the capacity to assess asylum applications;
- Increasing Australia's humanitarian refugee intake to 20,000 a year and resettling 1,000 people from Indonesia and 4,000 people from Malaysia;
- Codifying and abiding by our obligations to provide safety of life at sea; and
- Immediately establishing a multi-party committee to develop a fair, safe and legal regional framework and enter discussions with the Indonesian Government.
What we should be doing today is bolstering protection for people in desperate situations, not undermining it. The last thing we should do is cast people back into danger under the pretence of acting in their best interests.
Why will the Greens' proposals work?
The best way to prevent the terrible loss of life of people seeking asylum at sea is to stop people getting on boats in the first place. That means addressing the root causes of their plight, where they are now.
What's happening in Indonesia right now?
There are more than 8,000 desperate asylum seekers in Indonesia, and only two people - two - in the whole country employed by UNHCR to deal with their cases. UNHCR's annual budget in Indonesia is only $6 million, and has been cut since last year.
Australia needs to support UNHCR to do its vital work in Indonesia; that way, people seeking asylum will have a clear and safe pathway to resettlement in another country. Right now, the so-called 'queue' to be resettled from camps in Indonesia is 76 years long; clearly, the lack of hope in the current system is a major factor pushing people to board dangerous boats out of desperation and fear. An immediate increase in UNHCR funding of $10 million from Australia will increase their capacity to assess asylum applications.
How can Australia help people waiting in camps in our region?
Desperate people will always risk their lives in boats if they feel they have no other option. Australia only takes 60 people, on average, from Indonesia and Malaysia each year. If Australia announced today that we would take several thousand people from Indonesia and Malaysia, and gave a clear commitment that we will give them a safer pathway to a better life, there would immediately be far less pressure to get onto boats and risk their lives.
That's why the Greens are proposing an immediate increase in our annual humanitarian intake, and resettling 1,000 people from Indonesia and 4,000 people from Malaysia. Together, these bold steps for desperate people would give people languishing in camps or without legal protection a safe pathway to come to Australia.
Are there ways for Australia to improve our response to distress calls?
Indonesia does not have the capacity to rescue people who flee into the seas to the north of Australia. Some of their ships are not able to withstand heavy seas - the most dangerous conditions for people seeking asylum by boat. Australia needs to make clear today, across all our services, that our obligations are to provide safety for life at sea.
Our ships must be clearly instructed to respond to people in distress as soon as their distress calls are detected, and not wait until they are in the water.
What do the Greens propose for the longer term?
The Greens have been calling since the beginning of this debate for a mature, multi-party approach across the Parliament. We want to sit down with the Government and the Opposition to develop a real and effective regional solution, which is underpinned by the Refugee Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the related 1967 Protocol.
Where do these proposals come from?
What the Greens have proposed during this debate has been developed with refugee and humanitarian experts in the region. The Greens have worked on these issues for years, standing up for the human rights of people seeking asylum from dangers at home, and holding true to Australia's international legal and moral obligations.
History shows us that regional solutions do work. Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees were settled throughout the region when their homelands were beset by war and strife, through an agreement between nations based on our international obligations.
What would the proposals from other parties do?
Sending people who come to us seeking protection, including unaccompanied children, to either Malaysia or Nauru, will completely undermine such a regional approach.
Other countries will be discouraged from giving protection to people seeking asylum and those countries will have no reason to improve the ways people seeking asylum in their countries are treated. How would the Australian Government be able to ask other countries to sign on to the human rights protections of the UN Refugee Convention when it was ignoring the Convention itself?
Labor and the Coalition's proposal to expel asylum seekers who come by boat will not save lives. Under John Howard's Pacific Solution, which expelled asylum seekers to Nauru, boats continued to come and people continued to drown.
Some independents and the Labor Government passed a Bill in the House of Representatives yesterday. What would it do?
That Bill allows the Government of the day to choose to send people to any country signed up to the Bali Process, not just the countries currently proposed. Bali Process countries include Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
This quick fix is in fact sleight of hand, which would put people seeking asylum in further danger.
We've seen in the past that regional solutions do work, whereas casting people off-shore into further danger so they are forced to keep running does not. The SIEV X disaster happened after the Howard Government established the Pacific 'Solution'.
Taking people who are fleeing horrendous circumstances and dumping them in Malaysia or Nauru will not work. To back offshore processing would be a rejection of the Refugee Convention and Australia's long standing commitment to human rights.
Labor for Refugees yesterday backed the Greens and criticised the ALP:http://www.facebook.com/labor4refugees/posts/327067277379352
Other groups supporting the Greens' proposed action include:
Amnesty International -http://www.amnesty.org.au/news/comments/29104/
Asylum Seeker Resource Centre -http://www.asrc.org.au/media/documents/media-release-time-bring-back-debate.pdf
Refugee Council of Australia -http://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/n/media/120628_Parlt_Bill.pdf