Asylum Seekers

In recognition of World Refugee Day, Abigail used her Adjournment Speech to speak passionately in support of refugee rights and to demand the cruelty of the current Australian immigration regime is put to an end.

Ms ABIGAIL BOYD (00:18): In 2013 Abdul Aziz Muhamat fled Sudan in search of peace, safety and a better life. He was just 20 years old. He tried to come to Australia, but was detained on Manus Island. He was there for six years. Rather than give in to despair, Abdul organised with others detained on Manus and made his voice heard. He spoke to the media, supported his fellow detainees and used social media to tell the world about their plight. In February of this year, he was recognised for that work and named the 2019 Martin Ennals Award Laureate. However, the award ceremony was due to take place in Geneva, so how would Abdul be allowed to attend? The Swiss Government did the decent thing and granted him a temporary visa. Then, on 8 June, the Swiss authorities went a step further. They abided by the spirit of international law and did what Australia had failed to do—they granted him permanent protection. This is what Abdul tweeted on the day: Today am so grateful to say the Swiss have granted me asylum in their beautiful country. For the first time in 6 years am free, but I won't be truly free in my heart till every one of my brother and sisters on Manus/Nauru are free and well in safe country. 

Abdul reminds us that everyone deserves to be free and well in a safe country. He also reminds us that as long as just one person is detained offshore for seeking asylum, none of us is truly free. Sadly, there are hundreds of people who remain detained offshore because of the Australian Government's policies. The Guardian Australia reports that there were 359 people in Nauru, and between 547 and 561 in Papua New Guinea as of March this year. Of the people in Papua New Guinea, 170 are in Port Moresby for medical treatment. The most disturbing number is 26. That is the number of cases of attempted suicide or self-harm since the Federal election result was announced. They had held out some hope for a change of government. Journalist Behrouz Boochani, who also is detained on Manus Island, said:

I'm struggling to find words to describe this situation. All I can say is that it's gone out of control. I don't know what will happen. So scary time.

It is easy for me to say to the people on Manus and Nauru, "Don't give up hope. I say it not only because I know that your hope is the only thing keeping you alive, but also because I genuinely believe that the actions of our Federal Coalition politicians do not represent the views of the Australian people." I know that many ordinary people in Australia want our Government to do the right thing. Every day there are community groups working to support asylum seekers in their struggles, both in detention and in the community. On the Central Coast, where I am from, we have an amazing local community group called Central Coast for Social Justice, who have been unwavering in their commitment to raise awareness of the plight of refugees and asylum seekers. Just last weekend they again hosted an annual Welcome to Refugees picnic event, bringing together people from across the Central Coast to celebrate Refugee Week.

I believe an overwhelming majority of people want Australia to be a welcoming country. Most people want our Government to abide by international law. Most people do not want to see people seeking asylum drown at sea trying to reach our coast. Yes, there are many possible solutions to the problem of risky boat journeys. However the heavily militarised offshore detention regime created by Labor and the Coalition breaches our humanitarian and legal obligations. It is also cruel and unjust to punish one group of people to send a message to another. The Kaldor Centre at the University of New South Wales has proposed a set of reforms to ensure that Australia lives up to its legal obligations while also promoting the safety of people seeking asylum.

Firstly, Australia needs to comply with its international legal obligations. We must not send people back to danger and we must repeal the offshore processing regime. Secondly, we should process claims for asylum in Australia, not offshore. That is The Greens' position and how it works in many other countries. People should not be detained for an indefinite period of time. People seeking Australia's protection are detained for 500 days on average compared to the average length of detention being fewer than 90 days in Europe. Australia must promote family unity and the best interests of children. If we do not want people risking their lives on boats, we need to provide quicker and safer pathways. We need to increase our resettlement quota and increase funding for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Finally, Australia should make it clear to everyone who is new to this country that we welcome them and we want them to succeed in building a new life. The Greens stand with everyone seeking safety and a new life in Australia. Nobody should have to become an award winner to get the protection they deserve. Everyone, simply by being human, deserves freedom, justice and a safe place to call home.

Read the full transcript on Hansard here.

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