Sunday, December 25, 2011


Labor and Coalition in 'unholy alliance' on refugees

Stefanie Balogh

From: The Australian December 24, 2011

REFUGEE advocates have accused Labor and the Coalition of entering an "unholy alliance" on offshore processing, expressing dismay that the Pacific Solution-era island of Nauru has been resurrected as a processing option for asylum-seekers.

Labor for Refugees co-convener Linda Scott said the group was "concerned" about the negotiations between the government and opposition to break the border protection impasse.

She said the government's offer to reopen the Nauru processing centre in return for support to pass legislation to shield the Malaysian Solution from any further High Court challenge was "ostensibly a Liberal Party policy".

"Labor for Refugees clearly continues its opposition to any offshore processing, although we are especially concerned about options concerning places like Nauru which we know have a long history of problematic treatment of asylum-seekers," she said.

The ALP's national platform, adopted this month, prohibited any reintroduction of temporary protection visas, Ms Scott said.

...She also said the platform included caveats designed to ensure Australia upheld its international obligations and protected asylum-seekers. "We would certainly work hard to make sure the government kept those commitments," she said.

Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul said: "We're pretty disgusted that the Labor Party is trying to establish an unholy alliance with the Coalition to reintroduce third-country processing.

"At least at Christmas Island people who are processed at Christmas Island come to Australia. But if there is a deal with the Coalition, it will give the Labor Party the capacity to turn people away from Australia," he said. "And that is why nothing good whatsoever can come out of the discussions."

Pamela Curr of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre said she greeted Labor's decision to reverse course on Nauru "with despair".

"What is going to happen to these people? Are we going to dump them in Nauru in conditions that are so inhospitable that the Australian government hopes the message will go back to Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan 'don't come because the living conditions are appalling'?" she said. "It didn't work last time and it's not going to work this time."

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said Labor's decision to embrace Nauru was a "very sad moment".