The ACT Greens are putting pressure on the Federal Government to resettle Manus Island and Nauru asylum seekers in Australia, calling the current refugee policy “cruel and inhumane”.
The Greens will today lead a motion in the ACT Legislative Assembly that calls on the Federal Government to immediately remove all refugees and asylum seekers from the Manus Island and Nauru detention centres – and then to resettle them in Refugee Welcome Zones, including Canberra.
The call comes on the back of recent reports about an Iranian refugee dying on Manus Island and, more recently, around 50 refugees being unable to access needed health treatment on Nauru.
“The Greens believe that seeking asylum is a humanitarian issue that obliges us all to treat those seeking asylum with compassion and dignity,” Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury said.
“The Manus Island and Nauru offshore detention centres are unsafe and inappropriate places to house refugees, including children,” he said.
“We have heard troubling reports of a deteriorating situation both on Manus Island and Nauru. This includes the recent death of an Iranian refugee on Manus, and news that almost 50 refugees were prevented from receiving necessary health treatment on Nauru.
“This situation is cruel and unsustainable. It is well past time for the Federal Government’s damaging, cruel and inhumane policy to end,” Mr Rattenbury said.
The motion to be put forward today notes that the ACT is “willing and ready” to settle refugees and asylum seekers from Manus Island and Nauru in Canberra as part of a national program of resettlement.
The St Vincent de Paul Society has welcomed the ACT Greens’ motion saying it sends a clear message to the Federal Government that its damaging offshore processing policy must end.
“It is time the Australian Government abandoned the practice of offshore punishment and honoured its international obligations to people seeking a safe place to call home,” said Dr John Falzon, CEO of the St Vincent de Paul Society National Council.
Dr Falzon said that several members of the Society have visited Manus Island in recent months and witnessed a deterioration in conditions, as well as growing fear and desperation, and an escalation in violence and threats directed toward refugees and asylum seekers.
“Messages from the terrified men on Manus paint an alarming picture and we hold grave fears about their safety,” said Dr Falzon.
“The Australia Government has said the processing centre will close by the end of October, but the men are being coerced out of the regional processing centre with nowhere to go, and are afraid of being attacked or left in limbo forever in a place where they have little access to food, medical support and other basic services.
“After four years of fear and violence, substantiated cases of sexual abuse and seven deaths, the only humane and responsible option is to evacuate every man, women and child held on Nauru and Manus to safety. Otherwise, further tragedy is inevitable,” said Dr Falzon.
The ACT is one of 148 Refugee Welcome Zones across Australia but is the only state or territory to become a zone with the rest of the zones made up of councils or shires from every state.
“Today we’re calling on the Federal Government to resettle refugees and asylum seekers in Australia’s 148 Refugee Welcome Zones, where they can build new lives among compassionate and caring communities that have committed to upholding their rights,” Mr Rattenbury said.
What do you think of the Federal Government’s refugee policy? Would you support resettling Manus Island and Nauru refugees in Canberra? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.