May 5, 2021
Statement by Paul Power CEO of the Refugee Council of Australia
The Australian Government’s decision to extend visas for people currently in Australia from Myanmar is a compassionate measure which will directly save the lives of people opposed to Myanmar’s violent military coup.
In taking this step, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has clearly listened to the concerns of international students, asylum seekers and refugees on temporary visas deeply worried about the risks they would face if forced to return home.
Many Myanmar nationals in Australia will now sleep much easier, knowing that the Australian Government has acknowledged the stress they have faced since the coup took place three months ago.
The Myanmar military is a brutal force, responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands – possibly hundreds of thousands – of the nation’s citizens since the first military coup in 1962.
This decision is a positive example of what Australia can do when the lives of people at risk are given priority.
The Refugee Council of Australia has rightly been critical when successive Australian Government have introduced harsh policies which punish and ignore people at grave risk. We have long felt that heartless and hardline responses to people seeking protection have undermined the good work that Australia has done since World War II to resettle more than 900,000 refugees.
For too long, Australia’s refugee policy has been split between practical compassion and hardline heartlessness. Australia’s international reputation has suffered as a result.
The decision to extend visas of Myanmar citizens currently in Australia is practical compassion in action, providing, on this occasion, a positive example to other countries in the region.
We will continue to draw the attention of Mr Hawke and Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews to ways in which this practical compassion can be applied to the situations of refugees suffering the impacts of the policies of offshore processing, indefinite detention and temporary protection.