Last night the Government announced at long last that it will begin processing asylum seekers who arrive by boat on Australian soil. Sadly, it did so because it was backed into a corner and could not get the support in Parliament it needed to amend the Migration Act.
Despite this, a number of the changes announced are welcome including faster processing of asylum seekers and community placement during processing for those arriving by boat - the same successful measures in place for years for those who arrive by plane. What's missing is an increase in the humanitarian intake.
Currently Australia accepts 13,750 refugees each year, but by roughly doubling the intake to 25,000 annually we could reduce the number of boats, while providing greater protection to those in need.
Click here to help make it happen: http://www.getup.org.au/sensible-solution
Current Government policy has actually created a pull factor because once an asylum seeker arrives in Malaysia or Indonesia from countries like Afghanistan and Iraq they discover there is no "queue." According to UNHCR, there are currently more than 90,000 refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia. Yet between July 2009 and February 2011 only 518 visas were granted to people waiting in Malaysia and all of them went to Burmese nationals, leaving many people with no choice but to risk their lives on a boat to Australia.
If Australia is to slow the number of boats arriving on our shores we need to increase our refugee intake, target that intake within the region and step up diplomatic engagement with our neighbours to do all that we can to stop people risking their lives on the dangerous boat journey to Australia.
As the Government moves to onshore processing, let's make sure they know they have our support, but that we must also increase our humanitarian intake.
Click here to email your Labor MP: http://www.getup.org.au/sensible-solution
Incredibly, despite the encouraging steps announced yesterday, the Prime Minister says that her party remains committed to the Malaysian solution when it's been shown to be sorely lacking in human rights and legally suspect.
The Gillard Government must now develop a multilateral, regional cooperation framework that ensures adequate protection and timely assessment of refugee claims. Only by accepting greater numbers of refugees will we undermine the people smugglers who seek to profit from persecuted people.
Send your Labor MP a message: onshore processing and community detention are welcome, but it's time we increased the humanitarian intake.
Political leaders often face testing moments that either expose inconsistencies between public promises and political policies, or enable them to exhibit true leadership and rise above partisan politics to create a lasting legacy that they, and those they represent, can be proud of.
It's time that our politicians do what we elected them to - show leadership and provide, not Pacific Solutions, not Malaysian Solutions, but sensible solutions.
The GetUp Team