Media release from Brigidine Asylum Seekers Project, Albert Park, Victoria
The most significant individuals lost in last week’s furious parliamentary
debate were asylum seekers.
As members of the Brigidine Asylum Seekers’ Project, we talk to many asylum
seekers, both in Immigration Detention Centres and in the community.
They tell us the reasons why they have left their countries and their
families to find a safe place to live. These reasons always include fear of
being tortured, imprisoned and killed, and lack of basic human rights for
themselves and their children.
When they flee from their own country, they face new dangers in countries
where they are considered illegal and where it is still impossible for them
to live safely. As we listen to individuals’ stories and try in some ways
to assist them, we constantly marvel at how any human beings can suffer so
much and still survive.
It is essential to begin with the premise that people who suffer
persecution have a right to seek protection. It is a tragedy that many have
died in the perilous journey from Indonesia to Australia in search of that
We believe that it is impossible to save people from drowning on these
trips unless we address the issues that made them get on boats in the first
To imagine that asylum seekers get on boats without weighing up safer
options beggars belief.
A few facts put this into perspective.
Fewer than 10% of those found to be refugees by UNHCR in Malaysia are
resettled anywhere in the world. The rest are forced to survive illegally
in countries where human rights abuses are rampant and where safety is
impossible. Families are separated (for years) as husbands and fathers seek
a place where they can ensure a reasonable life for their loved ones.
The number of asylum seekers accepted by Australia is a small and arbitrary
number. It could be doubled or tripled and still not be large by global
We recommend an immediate increase in the current annual number from
13750 to 25000. We also recommend immediately offering places to 5000
asylum seekers registered with UNHCR who are waiting indefinitely in
Indonesia and Malaysia.
If, as an Australian community, we really want to contribute to the safety
of asylum seekers at sea, we should immediately put more resources into
maritime rescue operations.
We recommend negotiation with Indonesia about how both countries can
cooperate to save lives. We *recommend* that the bulk of the resources
needed come from Australia because we are the more affluent country.
There is a lot of confusion in the community and in the Parliament about
why the boat tragedies are happening. We reject the idea that we can
effectively deter desperate people from getting on boats by punishing those
who do. The passion to find a safe place for those in desperate need should
be our top priority.
Contact: Sister Brigid Arthur (03)96962107; 0408101134