ERC condemns coalition asylum policy

Researchers at the Edmund Rice Centre this evening condemned the asylum seeker policy announced today by the Coalition, rejecting it as a return to the worst strategies of the past, with potential dire consequences.

“This policy is fundamentally flawed,” said Edmund Rice Centre director, Phil Glendenning. “It takes dangerous risks with vulnerable lives.”

“To return to such a policy with such little regard for human life - this time with full knowledge of the implications – would mark a new low-point in Australian national life," he stated.

Mr Glendenning has been lead researcher over the past seven years in the Edmund Rice Centre's investigative project to find out what has happened to the asylum seekers Australia has rejected.

“The Edmund Rice Centre's deportations' research team has carried out investigations in 22 countries into what happens to Australia's rejected asylum seekers. We have conducted interviews inquiring into the fate of over two hundred and fifty people. We know what happens when cruel policies like this are put in place,” Mr Glendenning said.

”We know that the policies of the Howard Government led to people being returned to danger and to persecution. In some cases people paid for this cruel policy with their lives as some returnees were killed - in Afghanistan, in Sri Lanka, in Colombia, in Iran and in Pakistan.” he said

"The Coalition’s policy is wrong because it focuses on punishment of people fleeing from persecution, rather than the development of sound policies to protect those who are fleeing from persecution," Mr Glendenning said.

“The Coalition’s policy is cruel because it is prepared to expose some of the world's most vulnerable people to the well-documented psychological trauma of long-term detention in remote locations, and ignores the impact of long-term separation, upon families in crisis.”

"A policy that would take Australia back to being characterised by children in detention, refugees locked up on remote Pacific islands without legal rights, and people seeking safety being returned to the danger they were escaping from, would mark Australia as a nation that gives appallingly scant regard to human rights.”

“Surely we have reached the stage in our national life, where our response to asylum seekers cannot be reduced to a compassion-less auction, appealing to the base instincts and fears of the Australian people,” he affirmed.

"After all, among 44 industrialised nations Australia takes only 1.6% of asylum seeker claims. In the light of that reality, this policy announced today is simply heavy-handed cruelty.”

“Leadership should be about taking the nation forward to somewhere better,” Mr Glendenning concluded. “This policy marks a retreat to the worst of the past. We know that would have tragic consequences, because that is what happened last time

Over the past seven years the Edmund Rice Centre has conducted research in 22 countries into what happens to Australia's rejected asylum seekers. Two major reports have been published - Deported to Danger and Deported to Danger II – leading to the making of a television documentary, A Well Founded Fear, which screened nationally in Australia in 2008 and internationally in 2009.

For interview/comment contact: Sean Cleary 0403 434 512

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