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Off-shore processing and detention of children must stop

Media Release
Lee Rhiannon 24 Aug 2010

Lee Rhiannon, widely tipped to win a NSW Senate seat for the Greens NSW, congratulated those bringing a High Court case, which begins today, testing the lawfulness of current off-shore processing arrangements on Christmas Island. She also called on the Federal government to abide by its international obligations with regards to refugees and asylum seekers.

“Labor and the Coalition are arguing about which of our neighbours should bear Australia’s responsibility for processing refugees and asylum seekers,” Ms Rhiannon said.

"Labor could have challenged off-shore processing when they were in Opposition, but they too seem more interested in electoral outcomes than humanitarian ones.

“The Greens have long called for an end to off-shore processing. Asylum seekers should not be treated differently because of the way they arrive in Australia.
Refugees should be processed quickly and humanely on the mainland, while ensuring that all security and medical checks are undertaken.

“This policy not only makes economic sense, it reflects the fact that the vast majority of people who come to Australia by boat are found to be genuine refugees.

“The Greens also want to immediately end the detention of children. As of August 3, it was reported that there were 739 children in detention. That is just 84 shy of the Howard government’s ‘record’.

“The Federal government has an international obligation to accept genuine refugees and asylum seekers, and a moral obligation to treat them humanely.  

“Suspending the claims of Tamil and Afghan asylum seekers was grubby politics. Playing electoral games with people’s lives is disgraceful.

“Australian troops are dying in Afghanistan – how much more dangerous must it be for ordinary Afghan citizens? The situation there is reportedly deteriorating, not improving.

“During the election, Prime Minister Julia Gillard boasted of increased rejection of Sri Lankan asylum seekers, but 80 to 90 per cent of these rejections are being overturned on review.

“The halt in processing Tamil claims has now been lifted. You have to ask why they were suspended in the first place.

“The desperate situations Tamil and Afghani refugees face in their home-countries would cause enormous mental strain.  The Australian government is adding to this by pursuing mandatory detention, offshore processing and playing these people for electoral advantage.

“It’s time for all parties to end the politicisation of these people, and to start treating them with humanity and compassion,” Ms Rhiannon said.    

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