Friday, 16 October 2009

RAC: Gillard's actions on refugees reminiscent of Tampa



“Julia Gillard’s claim that the Sri Lankan Tamils taken to Indonesia are Indonesia’s responsibility is a shameful reprise of the Tampa incident in 2001,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“The longer this episode goes on the more the Rudd’s policies mirror those of the Howard government. The Rudd government is letting the Liberals set the political agenda. It does no credit to a government that promised to establish a humane refugee policy in place of the divisive policies of the Howard era.

“It is an unseemly and unnecessary political fiasco. What’s more, it is a stance that is unsustainable,” said Rintoul

“Indonesia does not have the resources to deal with asylum seekers. The Rudd government has spent hundreds of millions of dollar to buy Indonesia’s silence, but that can’t last. In the end, just like those detained on Nauru, the world community will judge that the Sri Lankans and other asylum seekers in Indonesia are Australia’s responsibility.

“It is a dilemma and political crisis of the Rudd government’s own making. Rather than bluster about people smugglers and border protection, Kevin Rudd should face up to the fact that asylum seekers are a fact of life. They are not illegal immigrants. There is no flood. Just as the Fraser government took responsibility for Vietnamese refugees, surely it is not beyond the Rudd government to provide similar leadership.

In 2001, the Australian government called for international assistance for an asylum seeker boat in distress. After the Norwegian flagged vessel MV Tampa answered the distress call the then Howard government promptly tried to coerced the Captain, Arne Rinnan, to transport his cargo of asylum seekers to Indonesia. The Indonesian government, understandably, refused. The asylum seekers were eventually dumped on Nauru - so began the so-called Pacific Solution.

“What is not admitted by the Howard government, or stated clearly by the Rudd government, is that the Pacific solution collapsed because of opposition from the Nauru government in spite of million dollar bribes. More particularly it collapsed because no third countries, like Canada or New Zealand, were about to take asylum seekers who were clearly Australia’s responsibility.

“Kevin Rudd’s ‘Indonesian/Indian Ocean solution’ will also collapse under the weight of its own contradictions. But further damage will be inflicted on asylum seekers and the social fabric of Australia if the government does nothing to take a lead to stem the anti-refugee histrionics. Indonesia should let itself be blackmailed,” said Ian Rintoul.

“The Refugee Action Coalition is calling on the government to recognize its responsibilities and bring the Tamil asylum seekers to Australia.”

For further information contact Refugee Action Coalition, Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713

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