This could be Australia's most dangerous export
Australia’s approach to asylum seekers sets a dangerous precedent for the world.
As Europe grapples with the complexity of the refugee crisis, it's concerning that Australia may seek to promote its policies of deterrence. Many European countries have recently closed their borders to asylum seekers, while some have introduced mandatory immigration detention.
Most alarmingly, a delegation of Danish politicians recently planned to visit Nauru to assess whether Australia's framework could be applied in Denmark. (Ultimately, the trip was cancelled after the Government of Nauru refused to grant visas to members of the group who had publicly criticised Australia’s offshore processing arrangements.)
Australia’s approach, if adopted on a global scale, would certainly mean the end of the notion of refugee protection.
If replicated elsewhere, it will result in growing tides of men, women and children pushed up against closed borders. It will create a future in which people simply do not flee persecution at all - in which they remain where they are to suffer whatever fate may befall them in countries not willing or able to protect them.
We believe Australia can be a more compassionate and constructive global player.
These policies are undermining Australia's global standing and influence
There is little doubt that Australia’s asylum seeker policies have damaged Australia’s reputation as a rights-respecting country.
During the UN Human Rights Council's recent review of Australia's record, other states made no fewer than 60 recommendations to reform our harsh treatment of people seeking asylum. Meanwhile, UN bodies and experts like the Special Rapporteur on torture have been highly critical of Australia's treatment of refugee children.
So how will our international peers judge Australia’s bid for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council?
If Australia does secure a seat, will we be taken seriously as a strong and credible advocate for the full spectrum of human rights? Will we be able to "wage a tireless campaign to end the death penalty around the world" as the Government hopes? Can we hold other countries to account while simultaneously flouting human rights in our own backyard?
Meanwhile, it's often observed that Australia is one of the few countries in our region that is signatory to the Refugee Convention and willing to offer voluntary resettlement - a factor which is seen as a barrier to more regional cooperation. Yet, Australia is thwarting its own long-term objectives by undermining the international regime. Instead, we should be promoting respect for refugee rights and the importance of more countries in the region becoming party to the Refugee Convention.
There is a better way
After years of successive Australian Governments failing to meet the challenges of asylum seeker policy, it's time for a new way forward.
UNICEF Australia and Save the Chilren are proposing a suite of measures to resolve the plight of refugees on Nauru and Manus Island and build a new regional solution that offers true protection for children, families and other people fleeing persecution.
As the Prime Minister prepares to join leaders at the UN Summitt on Refugees, he has the chance to embrace a more humane approach and show the world our true generosity as a nation.
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