Refugee Council of Australia
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Does ‘stopping the boats’ save lives?

Nobody wants to see people seeking asylum risking their lives to reach Australia. Nobody seeking asylum wants to risk their lives either, but they do it because it is better than going back to persecution. Most people do not wish to leave their homes, families, friends and everything they know and hold dear. They do so as a last resort, to escape persecution and find safety and security for themselves and their families.

For many refugees, this search for safety does not end once they have escaped their country of origin. Many refugees are forced to live in countries which do not provide effective protection. They are forced to seek protection elsewhere, despite the risks involved.

If we turn people back or punish them by sending them overseas to be detained, this does not save people but condemns them to more suffering. It is like stopping someone from being electrocuted by strangling them instead.

The truth is that there are no easy answers. We can and should help countries to become more stable and peaceful, and to stop oppressing people. We can and should help countries treat refugees better while they are living there, so they don’t feel like they can leave. We can and should change our border policies so that it is easier for people to reach Australia safely.

In the end, though, seeking asylum is something people will need to do, when they have run out of other choices. We should not condemn them for it, nor pretend we are saving them by punishing them more.

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