The Edmund Rice Centre director, Phil Glendenning, today expressed his deep sorrow at news of the weekend asylum boat disaster. “This event is an utter tragedy,” he said. “We offer heart-felt condolences to the families of all those who have perished.”
“This event serves to remind us yet again of the desperate circumstances that people – especially oppressed minorities - are facing in places like Sri Lanka, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran – and the desperate measures they are prepared to take to escape. Two things need to happen now.”
“First, Australia should double our annual national humanitarian migration intake - with the increase taking the form of a major program of settlement of refugees from within our own region. Such an initiative would remove the incentive for people of jumping on a boat and risking their lives.”
“We need a regional solution that has the region in it – both the Malaysia and Nauru proposals are not regional processes. They offer no lasting solution,” Mr Glendenning emphasised.
“Second, our politicians have got to stop playing partisan politics with this issue. The level of leadership displayed by both major political parties on this issue has been simply appalling.”
“We urgently need a bi-partisan response that is about protecting people’s lives, rather than responding to the alarmist stance of shock-jocks, or instilling fear into normally generous Australians,” he said.
“We need a bipartisanship that moves the debate forward towards real solutions and that doesn’t expose the lives of the vulnerable to greater risk.”
“Measures for deterrence are ineffective in addressing the region-wide refugee situation whilst persecution continues in source countries, and while there is no hope of lasting viable security for those fleeing persecution,” Mr Glendenning affirmed.
“Australia has the resources to take a key leadership role within the region to address the crisis by implementing a significant regional intake quota,” he stated.
“Of course, Australia has successfully dealt with this issue before. Following the Vietnam War under the Government of Malcolm Fraser and with the support of the then Labor Opposition, Australia increased its intake to well over 20,000 and assisted in the settlement of over 250,000 people through a proper regional co-operation process. In those years the numbers escaping by boat from Indo-China were much, much higher than those coming by boat today.”
“In the wake of the Vietnam War, the problem was far more difficult but the leadership was better. Our nation urgently needs such leadership today if further catastrophe is to be prevented,” he said.