Asylum seekers: the way forward

Posted: 28 JUL 10 Written by: Oxfam

A comprehensive regional approach to asylum seekers must be adopted by whoever wins the election if there is to be any hope of truly moving forward on this complicated issue.

Releasing its briefing paper, ‘Asylum Seekers – the way forward’ today, international aid agency Oxfam said asylum seeker policy must not be allowed to become about shifting a difficult political issue to poorer countries, with policies focused on offshore processing centres that were akin to a political too hard basket.

Oxfam Executive Director Andrew Hewett said a comprehensive regional approach could potentially include a regional processing centre, if done properly.

“A genuine regional protection framework could be the key to unlocking a difficult political and humanitarian problem,” Mr Hewett said.

“A regional processing centre as part of a broader regional protection framework could be used to help strengthen the processing of asylum claims within the region. This would help provide an alternative to making the long and dangerous boat journey to Australia.

“Asylum seekers who make it to Australia should have their claims processed in Australia, and not be transferred offshore, thus shifting a politically difficult situation to poorer countries already struggling to provide essential services to their existing population.”

The briefing paper, provided to both the Government and the Opposition today, recommends the following key elements as part of a comprehensive regional approach:

  • An effective regional protection framework that involves countries of origin, transit and destination and that is sanctioned by the UNHCR;
  • Helping to give all asylum seekers the chance to have their claims fairly and swiftly assessed, no matter what country they are in;
  • Supporting developing countries in our region with properly targeted aid, so that they can house and support asylum seekers while they wait for their claims to be processed;
  • Upholding Australia’s international commitments and treating asylum seekers in Australia humanely; and
  • Strong standards for any regional processing centre that include a humane environment, quick, fair and transparent processing, and ensure that the centre is in line with the needs of the host country.

Mr Hewett said effectively targeted aid initiatives could include:

  • Tackling the causes of asylum seekers’ flight through conflict prevention, peace building and post-conflict recovery initiatives;
  • Strengthening the ability of other countries to provide asylum seekers with fair and speedy assessments of their claims; and
  • Supporting the establishment of humane reception arrangements for asylum seekers.

“Oxfam’s paper advocates common sense policies – although not all of them politically expedient –  and asks for humanity from our politicians as each political party sets out their vision for Australia and Australians moving forward,” Mr Hewett said.

“Let’s truly move forward on the issue of asylum seekers – constructively, intelligently and with humanity.”

For more information contact:  Kate Thwaites, katethwaites@oxfam.org.au,  0407 515 559

See the briefing paper here http://www.oxfam.org.au/site-media/pdf/OAus-AsylumSeekerWayForward-0710.pdf