Greens call for asylum policy changes

Christine Milne
Christine Milne

THE Greens have called on the Federal Government to abandon its "obsession with deterrence and punishment of refugees".

Greens Leader Christine Milne again urged the government to compromise on asylum seeker policy.

"Deterrence has never worked and is not working now," Senator Milne said in Melbourne on Thursday.

"The Australian Greens approach this issue by saying that we need to make sure that desperate people are not punished any more than they are already suffering and that instead we create safe pathways so that they can resume a normal life and engage in society in a really productive and fruitful way."

The Greens have refused to support any form of offshore processing - the preferred policy approach of both major parties - and were instrumental in blocking independent Rob Oakeshott's Bali bill in the Senate before the six-week winter recess.

 Mr Oakeshott's bill, which narrowly passed the lower house, would have paved the way for offshore processing in countries signed up to the Bali Process, including Nauru and Malaysia.

He has indicated he will seek to reintroduce the private member's bill when parliament resumes in just over a week.

Senator Milne was joined in Melbourne on Thursday by Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young and Pamela Curr, campaign coordinator at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, to launch a video featuring Afghan refugee Najeeba Wazefadost.

The launch came as another three boats were intercepted by Australian authorities in the space of 24 hours - bring the total for the week to eight.

More than 7000 people have been stopped making the treacherous journey across the sea in 2012.

The Greens have an unlikely ally in former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser.

In his submission to the expert panel, Mr Fraser outlined the reasons offshore processing - either in Malaysia or Nauru - would not work.

"The Opposition's Nauru solution involves intercepting people who have already got on boats or taking people from Christmas Island to Nauru," Mr Fraser wrote.

"It is not going to get them off boats. It is part of the process by which they get to Nauru which many will regard as a stepping stone to come to Australia. Seventy percent of those who previously did go to Nauru were resettled in Australia and in New Zealand.

"Nauru damages people, is not a deterrent and was expensive."

He wrote Labor's so-called Malaysia solution - whereby Australia would send 800 people who arrive in Australia illegally in return for 4000 proven refugees - was "no better".

"If as the government believes, that the number of 800 will not be reached because the policy will be a deterrent, it implies that those who are sent to Malaysia will not get any protections or any of the rights that should be accorded to refugees," he wrote.

"The so called Malaysia solution was found to be unconstitutional by the High Court as it breaches our domestic law and international obligations as signatory to the Refugee Convention."

Mr Fraser, like the Greens, also calls for Australia to increase its refugee intake to 25,000 people.

The expert panel received more than 300 submissions - 287 from individuals and 43 from organisations.

Links to the Greens' and Malcolm Fraser's submissions to the expert panel:

Topics:  federal government greens

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