Coalition victory brings despair for asylum seekers

Australia will remain unreachable for asylum seekers after the Coalition claimed victory in the Federal election, according to a refugee advocacy group.

Refugee Action Coalition spokesperson Ian Rintoul says the election result will mean policies which prevent Australia being a viable place to seek asylum will continue.

“For many people, Australia is simply not on the agenda as a place where many can get safety and protection,” he said.

According to refugees on Manus Island, 12 people have attempted to take their own life since the election result.

Asylum seeker and journalist Behrouz Boochani voiced his concerns about the mental health of asylum seekers on Manus Island because of the Coalition’s shock win.

Mr Rintoul said large numbers of people fleeing from mainly Afghanistan and Pakistan have settled in Indonesia over the past six years.

“The prospects of them getting from Indonesia to Australia is very, very little and there is little prospect of even [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] resettlement out of Indonesia,” he said.

He said refugees on Nauru, Manus Island and in communities across Australia expected conditions to change under a Labor government.

“Labor had said that everyone would come off Manus and Nauru,” he said.

“They didn’t know where they were going to take them but at least there was the promise they would be taken off Manus and Nauru”.

Labor also promised to accept New Zealand’s offer to resettle 150 refugees from Manus and Naura and grant permanent protection visas to refugees living in Australian communities with temporary protection visas.

The Coalition has also indicated it will try to repeal the medevac laws which allow doctors to authorise the transfer of patients off Manus Island and Nauru.

Mr Rintoul says the medevac laws have made little impact on the number of transfers off Manus and Nauru.

“We do continue to see medical transfers but most of them are being done under the process used before the medevac bill,” he said.

“We’re hopeful that we will be able to push the boundaries of the medevac bill to get more medical transfers.

“We will certainly be pushing to get more medical transfers through the process of the Federal Court and negotiation with the Immigration Department”.

Murdoch University global politics and policy senior lecturer Ian Cook says it could be difficult for the coalition to repeal the laws.

Centre Alliance is expected to hold the balance of power in the Senate. Its Senators have indicated they won’t support a repealing of the medevac laws.

Dr Cook says the Coalition will need to provide support for Centre Alliance’s home state of South Australia if they hope to gain that party’s support.

“In South Australia, they clearly have issues with respect to manufacturing and maintaining economic activity and so they are looking for investment in their local economy,” he said.

He said repealing the medevac law was an attractive policy because of Australian society’s resistance to asylum seekers.

“No doubt that there is still a strong resistance to asylum seekers in the Australian population, so it is a sort of attractive policy,” he said.

“There is just a few unknowns at the moment in terms of where the government is at and where Scott Morrison is at.”

Categories: General