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Asylum seekers urge Australia to ‘find a more humane way’

Asylum seekers urge Australia to ‘find a more humane way’
October 07
15:00 2014

To many Europeans who fear their countries are being overwhelmed by African refugees, the Australian practice of turning away boat people and negotiating deals with poor neighbours to take them is a potential solution to the problem.

In an attempt to stop the boat people, the Australian government made a pledge that they would not be settled in Australia, by transiting them indefinitely in grim holding camps in Papua New Guinea and in the Pacific island state of Nauru. Now, the government has negotiated with Cambodia to resettle some refugees in return for $35 million over four years.

But the treatment of the boat people, many of whom are simply economic refugees, has outraged the local refugee lobby, though some observers believe it is motivated more by a deep hatred of Australian prime minister Tony Abbott and his administration.

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English Language version of the Australian government’s ad campaign

Anti-boat people sentiment runs high in Australia. In the past 12 months, the government has spent some $20 million running ads in countries such as the Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and Sri Lanka with such themes as ‘No way’, ‘You will not make Australia home’, and ‘Don’t throw your money into water’. These urge would-be asylum seekers not to pay people-smugglers for dangerous sea journeys.

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While it seems many Australians support the move, left wing politicians like the Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young criticised the spending of tax-payer money on what she described as “an obscene, self-promoting fear campaign”.

But a spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said the communications campaign had been a important part of their success in stopping the boats.

Critics say the treatment of boat people is inhumane and unnecessarily hardhearted, especially for the children.

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And church leaders recently blasted the asylum policy over its treatment of minors, accusing Scott Morrison of forsaking his duty as a minister of care to the young.

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Many asylum seekers don’t make it

The criticism follows the plight of around-50 children said to be among the 157 Sri Lankan detainees from India who were held at sea for almost a month before being transported to a detention facility.

The asylum seekers were the first to reach Australian shores by boat since December, testing the government’s contested policy of turning back boats carrying potential refugees or preventing them from reaching the mainland and transporting them to centres in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.

Australian pediatricians have echoed the church’s sentiment, saying that detaining asylum seeker children is child abuse.

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About 80 per cent of pediatricians questioned for a new study agree with an Australian Medical Association statement that mandatory detention of children is a form of abuse.

Every country has the right to decide who can and cannot enter, but Australia’s asylum seeker policy continues to be under fire. Critics say the country must find a more humane answer to the boat people problem.

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