The Australian Government’s lecturing of the world about how to stop the flow of refugees by boat is undermining its efforts to quietly find countries willing to join the United States in taking refugees from Australia’s offshore detention on Nauru and Manus Island, the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) says.
Welcoming today’s call from the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, for Australia to end the offshore processing policy, RCOA chief executive officer Paul Power said the Australian Government still had no effective strategy to find long-term answers for many of the people found to be refugees on Nauru and Manus Island.
“When Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister announced the so-called ‘Refugee Resettlement Arrangement’ with Papua New Guinea four years ago, he had no clear plan about what to do with people found to be refugees, despite his recent claims to the contrary.
“The Turnbull Government still has no plan beyond the deal struck with the United States and has undermined its efforts to find other solutions by its obnoxious behaviour in lecturing the world about how it has solved the problem of refugees arriving by boat.
“Australia has found no solution at all. All it has done has been to prevail on other countries to take on its responsibilities. It is paying PNG and Nauru to detain people on its behalf and forcing asylum seekers back to Indonesia or to punishment in countries of origin, while quietly begging other countries to resettle the many people found to be refugees.”
Mr Power said more doubts about the Australian Government’s behaviour had been raised in today’s UNHCR statement that the government was now reneging on its undertaking to UNHCR to allow refugees in offshore detention to reunite with family members in Australia.
“Over the past two years, as more people on Nauru and Manus Island have been given refugee status, I have taken opportunities to talk quietly to officials of other governments and UN agencies about the situation of these refugees and the risks associated with their indefinite detention. In every conversation, it has been made clear to me that other nations regard the refugees as Australia’s responsibility under the Refugee Convention and believe that it is unreasonable for Australia to expect other nations to solve a problem it has created.
“It has been made clear to me in some conversations that governments which feel they have been lectured to by Australia about how to stop the boats have no interest in helping our government out of the hole it has dug for itself.”
Mr Power said the agreement struck last year with the United States and the past offer of assistance from New Zealand were extraordinary and unlikely to be repeated by other governments.
“The Australian Government can reassure itself that the world knows its view about refugees arriving by boat.
“Now, all that matters is finding an end to the suffering and a sustainable future for the people held on Nauru and Manus Island for four years while that point was made. For many people that must inevitably mean permanent settlement in Australia. Please, Mr Turnbull, get on with it.”
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