Australia’s engagement in refugee protection in Asia
- (Page 119) The world is experiencing its greatest humanitarian need since the Second World War with the largest number of displaced persons since that time. Labor believes that Australia should lead debate on the establishment of a best practice framework, including new regional agreements and understandings required to ensure the Refugee Convention and the international protection system function effectively in this environment. Australia understands that such a framework must include working to ensure better support for those countries that host the great majority of the world’s refugees and people seeking asylum, to directly address the needs and rights of displaced persons in these places. This includes encouraging countries in our region to provide protection to those in need and ensuring Australia responds by accepting our responsible share of the world’s resettlement of refugees.
- Labor acknowledges the role of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as the international agency dealing with the world’s response to this humanitarian need. In pursuing Australia’s responsibilities as a civilised and modern nation, Labor will ensure Australia is one of the leading contributors to the global work of the UNHCR with a significant increase to funding for UNHCR.
- Australia has a particular responsibility to show humanitarian and protection leadership in South East Asia. Accordingly, Labor seeks a leading role working with South East Asian nations in the region and in particular with Indonesia to build a regional framework to improve the lives of asylum seekers. Labor will give appropriate consideration to UNHCR refugee registrations to assist Indonesia and the UNHCR to work through the backlog. Subject to Australian vetting processes and sovereignty concerns Labor will positively considered such refugees for inclusion within the increased humanitarian intake.
- To combat people smuggling Labor will engage with Australia’s neighbours to address ‘push factors’ by seeking innovative, effective and lawful solutions to the irregular movement of people through the region. This approach will include multilateral engagement through Australia being a co-chair of the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime (the Bali Process), and new and deeper bilateral arrangements of a type envisaged by the Regional Cooperation Framework agreed at the Bali Process Ministerial Conference in March 2011.
- Labor will seek to ensure appropriate multilateral infrastructure is in place to build a humanitarian regional framework which may include seeking to extend the work of existing multilateral processes.
- In recognising that addressing ‘push factors’ in transit countries will lessen the need for people to take a boat journey, Labor will work with the UNHCR to help build its capacity in South East Asia to pursue its mandate and assist the region’s asylum seekers.
- The phenomenon of people smuggling has a long history arising from the need for people to escape from danger and persecution. Labor also recognises that those who decide to leave a country in perilous circumstances have the right under the Refugee Convention to determine their means of departure. However, recognising the risk to life of people travelling on unsafe, unseaworthy and overcrowded boats often operated by criminal syndicates, Labor supports measures to reduce such journeys by working with regional neighbours and the UNHCR to eliminate any influence that people smugglers may have over vulnerable protection claimants by addressing people smuggling at its source, in countries of first asylum and transit countries.
- The most significant source country in South East Asia is Myanmar. Myanmar has undertaken enormous political and economic reforms, but we are deeply concerned by events that have led to the large-scale movement of Rohingya refugees into neighbouring countries, particularly Bangladesh. Labor will work with Myanmar in the critical task of protecting human rights for all of its people and ensure our aid and cooperation programs with Myanmar are suitably tailored to do so.
- In pursuing strong regional arrangements Labor will seek to ensure they provide access to protection in countries of first asylum and transit countries to deter secondary movements of asylum seekers through:
- The developing of capacity to improve accommodation, work rights, access to health and education services and other living standards for asylum seekers;
- Expediting the claims for refugee status by asylum seekers; and
- The seeking of durable solutions.
- (Page 122) Labor will appoint a Special Envoy for Refugee and Asylum Seeker Issues with responsibilities for advancing Australia’s interests and ensuring Australia plays a global role in the resettlement of displaced people.
- As the Government should have done, Labor will refer the United Nations Global Compact on Migration for consideration through the proper parliamentary committee process.