Edmund Rice Centre: ‘Implementation of Expert Panel report has failed

The Edmund Rice Centre has questioned the changes to asylum policy announced today by the Federal Government, naming them as running in direct contradiction to what Australia is asking of other nations in our region.

“It is fair to say that the implementation of the Expert Panel’s report thus far has failed,” stated Edmund Rice Centre director, Phil Glendenning.

“The Government appears to be intent on implementing only the punitive aspects of the Expert Panel’s report – measures which have proven to be both costly and ineffective.”

“Moreover, the denial of work rights in Australia to people who have been found to be refugees undermines the most important aspects of the Expert Panel’s recommendations,” he affirmed.

“The Expert Panel recommended a regional solution as the most effective way for avoiding that people should risk their lives in boats. The Panel rightly identified the need to ensure the security and rights of asylum seekers in the countries they pass through before coming to Australia.”

“This means that people would need to be afforded residency with work rights in countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Pakistan whilst they wait for their refugee status to be determined by the UN refugee agency,” Mr Glendenning said.

“It is important for Australia to be consistent and to not ask the nations of the region to do something that we are not prepared to do ourselves.”

“The punitive measures of today’s policy announcement directly subvert the potential for the constructive elements of the Expert Panel to be enacted. In short the government is undermining its own policy,” he said.

“What we are now seeing in Nauru, Manus Island and in Australia is a policy that is ineffective. If the aim of the exercise is to stop people risking their lives in boats, then we need to put in place policies that don't undermine that very aspiration.”

“With the Edmund Rice Centre’s ongoing research on the fate of asylum seekers who are rejected by Australia, we are very, very concerned at advice of a new wave of returns to Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. It is against international law to return people to the harm they seek to escape.”

“Afghanistan is deteriorating and is increasingly unsafe. No one should be sent back there. The situation in Sri Lanka is unstable and returning asylum seekers there is risk-filled.”

“This is a most distressing development given the situation on the ground in those countries.”

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

For interview or comment contact: ERC on (02) 8762 4200 

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