In August 2015, The Canary published an article – Without immediate action, Australia’s ongoing crisis will just get worse (and a longer version was published here). The article argued that when a Government reaches an impasse of its own making and is proving incapable of finding a solution, then it is time others should step forward to take charge and relinquish that Government of its responsibilities. Well, here is one intervention that attempts to do just that…
A group of Australian lawyers has dispatched letters to New Zealand, Canada, Germany and the US in a bid to help resettle refugees that it says Australia is keeping in offshore detention. Four letters have been sent to the relevant ministers of New Zealand, Canada, Germany and the US, appealing for foreign powers to resettle those refugees that Australia has not.
Benedict Coyne, president of Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR), said these countries have a record of generosity and the ALHR hoped they could provide refuge to the 2,000 people who remain “trapped” on Nauru and Manus Island.
Mr Coyne added:
The ALHR is concerned that if countries such as these do not offer resettlement places, refugees will be sent to countries that do not have the capacity to adequately protect and provide for their rights. International cooperation underpins the entire refugee protection regime. Responding to refugee crises, such as the situation on Nauru and Manus Island, is a global responsibility.
According to a ALHR media release more than 1,400 out of the 2,000 people detained in Australia’s offshore facilities on Nauru and Manus Island have valid refugee status. Mr Coyne also added that the Australian government’s unwillingness to deal with the problem prompted the group to call for international powers to intervene.
Australia has failed to initiate any major policy change after some 2,000 leaked documents alleging abuse and self-harm from within the Nauru detention centre were made public in August.
If the Australian government will not act, then the international community must. Resettlement on Nauru or Manus Island is not a feasible or durable solution for those found to be refugees.
Rebecca Dowd, ALHR refugee rights subcommittee co-chair, said it was contradictory for Australia to effectively deny control over allegations of mistreatment in offshore detention, but also block any alternative resettlement offered by other countries.
“We expect that if one or more of these countries were to offer to resettle refugees from Nauru or Manus Island, Australia would attempt – again – to block it,” Ms Dowd said. “The Australian government is determined not to offer any ‘incentive’ for people to board boats in Australia’s direction. But they cannot have it both ways,” she said.
The Australian Government has proved incapable of acting justly or of seeking a viable solution. It is now up to the Australian people either directly or via NGOs to intervene and take charge.
(For further information… Benedict Coyne: President, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 0434915713. Rebecca Dowd: Co-Chair, Refugee Rights Sub-Committee Email: email@example.com Phone: 0476 271 853.)
To read more articles by Tom Coburg in The Canary, click here.