Academics for Refugees Policy Paper: A Just and Humane Approach for Refugees

Executive Summary

Australia must end its harmful policies of offshore processing, boat turnbacks and the mandatory detention of people seeking asylum. These policies have failed and cannot be maintained. A framework of deterrence has not and does not ‘save lives’. It has not addressed the underlying reasons why people embark on dangerous journeys in search of refuge, nor has it contributed to improving the global humanitarian situation. Rather, it has created serious and increasingly intractable new problems, by attempting to shift responsibilities elsewhere, and created prolonged suffering for individuals seeking asylum.

This Policy Paper sets out practical and sound measures to be considered by the Australian government in order to adopt a just and humane approach towards people seeking asylum in Australia. Such an approach recognises that it is lawful to seek asylum and that people should not be penalised for how they arrive in Australia. It should adopt the following four measures:

  • close immigration detention centres and end mandatory detention;
  • initiate comprehensive law reform to ensure Australia upholds its international obligations;
  • promote a decent livelihood and thriving communities for people seeking asylum or who have been granted Australia’s protection; and
  • foster positive empathetic narratives about people seeking asylum.

Australia should work with other countries in the Asia Pacific region to create a new regional approach based on equity, capacity, responsibility and solidarity. Australia should contribute towards making the international system more sustainable, equitable and humane.

Australia should convene a National Policy Summit in 2017. The Summit should bring together asylum seekers and refugees, migrant and refugee advocates, policy experts, community representatives and politicians from all parties. The Summit should aim to:

  • generate constructive policy options and pathways for people seeking asylum and refugees that recognise the need for people to seek a life of safety;
  • recognise and facilitate the positive contributions of refugees to Australia’s communities;
  • recognise Australia’s responsibility to provide material support for asylum seekers and refugees;
  • respect Australia’s international obligations;
  • reflect a respectful relationship between Australia and its regional neighbours; and
  • recognise Australia’s potential for leadership on this issue.

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