Media Release: Refugee Action Collective condemns Labor putting Nauru on the table

The Refugee Action Collective (Victoria) condemns any move by the Labor government to put Nauru or any other third country as an option on the table in an attempt to push through offshore, denying the fundamental right to seek asylum. We demand that onshore processing remains policy and that refugees are assisted in arriving to Australia by whatever means necessary. We reiterate our opposition to any form of offshore processing, be it Malaysia, Nauru or anywhere else.

It is disgraceful that Labor are using the recent boat sinking to push a policy that doesn't save lives, but prevents asylum seekers from leaving situations of persecution or condemns them to rot in countries that deny their refugee status, and in the case of Malaysia, condemns them to torture and further persecution.

We call on the government to decriminalise people smuggling, to stop scuttling boats upon their arrival (encouraging people smugglers to send the least seaworthy boats), and to allow boat loads of asylum seekers to land, and assist boats in arriving.

We also disagree with comments made by prominent refugee advocate, Robert Manne that we need to stop the boats and deter arrivals by boat in order to save lives.

"There is nothing fundamentally dangerous about people travelling by boat from one country to the other, but the criminalisation of people smuggling means boats are forced to take the most dangerous journey to avoid detection and interception, and destroying boats upon arrival means the least seaworthy boats are sent. This wouldn't be a problem if the boats were allowed to land, and return," said Refugee Action Collective (Victoria) spokesperson Benjamin Solah.

"The federal Labor government and Coalition opposition are hypocritically feigning horror at the recent boat tragedy to cover up the real intention of their offshore processing policies. The real intention is to deter asylum seekers from fleeing persecution.

"The purpose of criminalising people smugglers is also about trying to prevent asylum seekers fleeing persecution."

"If this was not the purpose, then Australia would be directly resettling far greater numbers of asylum seekers from Indonesia, Malaysia and Pakistan so that fewer asylum seekers are forced to use boats to get to Australia."

We reiterate again that it is not a crime to seek asylum, no matter how someone arrives. And demand that refugees are allowed to land here, are processed and resettled in Australia - and that the policy of mandatory detention is ended. It has been almost 20 years since the policy was put in place and it's 20 years too long.

For further comments, contact Benjamin Solah on