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Blaming refugees for people smugglers' tricks not the solution

Desperate people will keep risking everything they have and flee for Australia via leaky boats if they feel they have no other alternative because of limited protection options, the Australian Greens said today.

"In the rush to punish people smugglers, we mustn't lose sight of the bigger picture and the causes that force people to run for their lives," Greens' immigration spokesperson, Sen. Sarah Hanson-Young, said.

"People will continue fleeing from war, torture or persecution and will always take their chance by boat because Australia resettles so few people directly from places such as Malaysia and Indonesia.

"Australia's humanitarian intake is among the lowest in the world - indeed as the UNHCR reported in March, we take 3 percent of the world's asylum seekers, fewer people as a percentage than Switzerland does.

"The best way to stop the people smuggling is to undercut their business by giving the most vulnerable safer options for seeking protection. Australia must do more practically to help asylum seekers by increasing our humanitarian intake and resettling more people directly.

"Australian authorities should punish people smugglers and their syndicate leaders, but not asylum seekers who are exercising their legal right to seek our help.

"In wanting to crack down on people smugglers, we shouldn't be resorting to punishing the very people we are meant to protect.

"The Australian government has talked tough about cracking down on smuggling leaders, but the result has been the prosecution of poor Indonesian fisherman and boys, some of whom had no idea the boats they were crewing would be carrying people.

"The Four Corners report also highlights problems with AFP in Australia and the agency's posts in Southeast Asia, and also ASIO.

"ASIO's negative assessments have meant the indefinite detention of 57 refugees including women and children, yet it could not detect a people smuggling ringleader living in Canberra. If they had it wrong in this case, how can we have confidence they don't have in wrong in the 57 cases of those indefinitely detained without explanation or right of review?

"This raises many questions about ASIO's effectiveness and its reasons for adverse security assessments that result in detention possibility for the rest of their lives.

"The Greens will continue to insist that Australia honours its international obligations to offer protection under the Refugee Convention, and will never support efforts to reinstate the Malaysia deal, Nauru or any other offshore option."

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