The Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) has welcomed commitments from the Australian government to address global displacement, but calls for an urgent solution to the glaring crisis in Australia’s offshore detention system.

States attending Obama’s Leaders Summit in New York were expected to make a ‘new and significant commitment’ to resolving the displacement crisis, as a pre-condition for attendance. Malcolm Turnbull yesterday announced that Australia would be permanently increasing the annual refugee intake to 18,750; committing a further $130 million dollars in aid to support peace-building and assistance to displaced people; and resettling refugees currently residing in Costa Rica. However, the issue of Australia’s offshore detention system, which has been the subject of substantial international criticism, was a notable omission.

“We welcome our government’s commitments today as a step in the right direction”, said Phil Glendenning, President of RCOA. “Committing to a permanently increased intake of almost 19 000 people under our Refugee and Humanitarian Program represents significant progress. We would like to see this figure increase further, particularly in the light of the commitment made by the US to increase its intake by an additional 22 000 people, which represents an increase of more than Australia’s total annual intake. We also strongly support the increase of $130 million towards peace-building and the delivery of support in host countries. This is an important contribution toward the durable solutions that the UN is seeking.

“However, there is an elephant in the room in the form of our offshore detention system. Our government has sent over 2000 people to detention on Manus Island and Nauru, and has made no meaningful attempt to resettle them. Today’s commitments do not excuse this fact.

“Our government is well aware of the traumatisation, the serious mental health issues and the tragic number of suicides of the people detained in our offshore detention camps. We know that there is a systematic pattern of abuse of both adults and children. We cannot continue to ignore this appalling ongoing human rights tragedy, which our government is funding and managing. The UN, international human rights groups, lawyers and, importantly, two thirds of the Australian population say it’s wrong. We say it’s wrong. The government must resettle these people immediately, and we know that the safest and fairest place for them to be is here in Australia. These people have suffered enough.”

Media: Laura.Stacey@refugeecouncil.org.au / 0488 035 535