Kevin Rudd’s announcement that Australia will send all asylum seekers to PNG to be processed and resettled is a disgraceful and desperate election ploy that he hopes will hang together long enough to get him through to the election.
While PNG is a signatory to the Refugee Convention, it has seven reservations to the Convention – including the right to work, public education, and freedom of movement – that throws serious doubt on the PNG to uphold any commitment to resettlement of refugees in PNG (http://www.unhcr.org/452f50342.pdf).
“Rudd’s announcement is an attempt at a quick election fix and will likely stall before it can be implemented. But the Labor leader who formerly said he would not move to the right on refugees has channelled the very worst of John Howard’s anti-refugee policy,” said Ian Rintoul, from the Refugee Action Coalition.
“Rudd’s announcement reveals both his and the Opposition’s astonishing hypocrisy on refugee policy. In a shamefully move, Australia is attempting to dump its own obligation to provide protection, while insisting that a poor neighbour, Papua New Guinea, will provide protection.
“As for the Opposition, it opposed the Malaysia Agreement for the very reason that it was not a signatory to the Convention but is remarkably silent now even though there is no commitment to refugees in PNG law. Scott Morrison openly opposed the Manus Island detention centre as ‘unsuitable’ – but not a word from him now.
“The idea that PNG can support detention of 3,000 let alone resettle the 20,000 or so that might arrive this year, is farcical.
“There is significant political opposition on Manus Island already to a detention centre that accommodates 200 people. Any permanent buildings on Manus Island will take months or longer. The idea that medical facilities are about to upgraded will also take months. It is certain now that a Constitutional challenge will be mounted against PNG’s detention centre. No wonder the agreement is only for a year.
“In the meantime, asylum seekers will continue to languish in Australia, Manus Island and Nauru. Hundreds of asylum seekers are protesting on Nauru tonight because of the delays in their processing. A detention centre of 3000 will be a disaster.
“Labor’s ‘PNG solution’ is an attempt to replicate Howard’s “Pacific Solution” – but Howard didn’t stop the boats and in the end a majority of the refugees did come from Nauru to Australia, despite Howard’s declaration that they wouldn’t.
“But Kevin Rudd has revealed that he is quite willing to sacrifice any shred of humanitarian principle and stoop to the depths of the Liberals’ anti-refugee policy in the cheap hope of gaining electoral advantage.”
“It’s a despicable continuation of the poisoned politics of deterrence that has characterised Labor’s competition with the Liberals to be tough on asylum seekers.”
For more information contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713