CENTRAL Victorian refugee advocacy groups are banding together to campaign against the “inhumane, expensive and ineffective treatment” of asylum seekers.
The Bendigo, Daylesford, Castlemaine and Maryborough Rural Australians for Refugees groups and the Ballarat Australian Refugee Association are calling on churches, community organisations, businesses and individuals to sign a statement in opposition to the federal government and opposition parties’ current refugee policies and send it to local MPs.
More than 200 people at a recent all-day forum in Bendigo unanimously agreed the government must abide by its commitment to the UN Convention on Refugees.
The agreement signed by Australia in the 1950s says countries must not discriminate against people according to the method of their arrival and must not send asylum seekers back from where they came if that would return them to danger.
The refugee advocacy groups’ statement said it was clear both the federal Labor and Liberal government policies were in defiance of the agreement.
“In the coming election the major parties are offering two similar responses to those who come in boats: take them to Manus Island with no hope of settlement in Australia, or ‘turn the boats back’ with no assessment of claims,” it said.
“Both policies fail the most basic tests of fairness, legality and economics and damage our self-respect as Australians.”
Bendigo RAR member Pat Horan said many people in the community felt passionately about the issue. “There has been very strong support for better conditions for asylum seekers,” she said.
“People want to see an improvement.”
Ms Horan said she hoped many other community groups would get behind the campaign.
“We’re hoping politicians will realise a huge number of Australians are appalled by what they are doing.
“The parties think this will win them votes, but the policy isn’t supported by most Australian people.”