Australia

Dec 21, 2012

Asylum seeker impasse: more regional focus needed

While it is vital to hold the government to account for its actions towards asylum seekers in Australia, a far greater impact on refugees results from our inaction in the region and beyond, writes Susan Metcalfe, author of The Pacific Solution.

The Houston report on Australia’s approach to asylum boat arrivals covers a lot of ground and the Gillard government claims to be implementing all of the expert panel’s 22 key recommendations. But to date, media coverage and commentary on the deterrence aspects of the report have far outweighed anything written or said about recommendations on regional co-operation or protection.

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2 thoughts on “Asylum seeker impasse: more regional focus needed

  1. Patrick Donovan

    Perhaps the most relevant phrase in your article is the domestic voting audience. With a general election looming, both the Labor party and the Liberal Party are primarily focused on presenting policies that they hope will help win key marginal seats in the next election. Unfortunately this does seem to mean the cherry picking of recommendations from the Houston report that advocate disincentives and deterrents.

    The Labor government is seemingly determined to match or pre-empt policy declarations of the Liberal party relating to asylum seekers, in the hope of securing another term in office. Also as long as politicians believe they have the political mandate from the domestic voting audience to implement such policies, the outlook for asylum seekers and the proposed regional framework will remain uncertain.

    This does present a particularly bleak scenario, as no matter which party wins the next election, they will interpret it as an endorsement of their policies, including their policies on asylum seekers.

  2. David Hadley

    The last two of the 22 recommendations by the Houston report (expert panel) state the efficacy between the onshore and offshore components of the humanitarian program be reviewed within 2 years. Secondly the panel recommended due to the ‘incompleteness of current evidence base on asylum issues’ is to be addressed through a further appropriately funded research programme engaging professional expertise(Report of the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers, 2012, p.18).
    Ironically the Australian Medical Association made public in 2011 their position on health care regarding detention centres as harmful to physical and mental health of asylum seekers and refugees. AMA President Dr Hambleton stated in 2011 these concerns have been raised for over a decade. “This damages people desperately seeking a new life” who “are well acquainted with fear, danger and desperation”. This position foreshadows the instigation of offshore detention centres and the deterrent of the no advantage policies. Due to the disregard of past asylum seeker evidence that the expert panel failed to acknowledge this, has resulted in one of Australia’s leading mental health experts Professor Minas resigning from the Gillard’s government advisory Council on asylum seekers. Professor Minas noted, there was a disregard for both the well-being of those directly affected and their long-term consequences as reported in The Canberra Times 2012. Certainly this is enough evidence to instigate a review and challenge to off shore detention centres and asylum seeker treatment.

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