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Java boat tragedy requires a regional humanitarian response

The Australian Greens have rejected renewed pushes to expel asylum seekers to Malaysia or Nauru following the Java boat tragedy, and have advocated again for an increase in the humanitarian intake with a direct resettlement programme.

"We need a humanitarian response that deals with the realities of why people flee on leaky vessels and not get sidetracked by discussions of border protection or national security," Greens' immigration spokesperson, Sen. Sarah Hanson-Young, said today.

"In the past 13 years, there have been 22 known boats which sank between Australia and Indonesia - before, during and after the former Howard government's Pacific Solution.

"Treating vulnerable people harshly and locking them in Nauru or elsewhere will not stop people fleeing for safety, nor will it stop boats sinking.

"Offshore policies of the government and Coalition do not offer long-term responses to this humanitarian issue.

"Australia should lead the region by working with neighbouring countries to offer safe pathways for protection, as was done during the Fraser government.

"The Fraser government did not punish people who fled Indochina on boats. It created a pathway to help them resettle in Australia.

"Our humanitarian intake should be increased to up to 25,000 people. We can afford to spend more on the UNHCR's projects in the region and take more people directly from source countries such as Afghanistan, and also the transit countries of Indonesia and Malaysia.

"Australia can also work closer with Indonesia and Malaysia to boost their levels of protection for asylum seekers by encouraging them to sign the Refugee Convention. People who seek asylum in those countries are considered illegal and cannot remain there, nor access jobs or schools.

"Rather than try telling someone, ‘no, you are not fleeing for your life', the government should accept it and introduce answers that remove their need to risk their future by boarding a boat."


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