: Refugee Action Collective calls on the government to decriminalise people smuggling

Media Release 19th December The Refugee Action Collective (Victoria) is saddened by the news of over 200 asylum seekers who have potentially died at sea on their way to Australia to seek asylum. The Refugee Action Collective also condemns the anti-people smuggling policies of the Gillard Labor government and places them with the blame for the death of possibly over 200 asylum seekers off the coast of Java on Sunday morning.

"If Labor and the Coalition hadn't criminalised arriving by boat and spent millions on border security, it would be much safer for asylum seekers to travel by boat to Australia," said Refugee Action Collective spokesperson Benjamin Solah, "There is no reason to criminalise arriving by boat. It is not a crime under international law to seek asylum and it is perfectly justifiable to flee persecution and seek asylum anyway they can."

The Australian government destroys intercepted boats resulting in unseaworthy boats being sent, and people smuggling being driven into the black market. We call on the government to decriminalise people smuggling so that those who can't seek asylum by plane, can come here openly and safely.

"What 'stopping the boats' really means is condemning people to die in countries and situations of persecution they cannot flee, rotting in countries that do not recognise refugees or dying at sea. Chris Bowen is happy for any of this to happen, so long as he doesn't have to take responsibility for looking after what is, in reality, a tiny number of refugees that arrive on our shores."

The Refugee Action Collective (Victoria) also condemn Mark Latham's comments blaming the Greens and Labor Left's support of onshore processing. "Would Mark Latham rather refugees rot in Malaysia where they can be caned and tortured? How is this a more compassionate policy?"

"If the government was seriously concerned about the safety of asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat, it would dramatically increase the number of refugees that it resettles from Indonesia and Malaysia. Asylum seekers who reach these countries and are recognised as genuine refugees by the UNHCR, continue to languish for 10 or more years in Indonesia and Malaysia before any possibility of being resettled. That's why so many asylum seekers board boats to Australia."