Australia Increases Refugee Numbers By 2000
Churches Congratulate Government on Increase in Refugee intake, but Queries Need for Onshore Deterrents
Christian World Service (CWS) Commission of the National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA) today congratulated the Minister for Immigration for increasing the number of offshore refugee places by 2,000 by taking 1,000 from the Special Humanitarian Program and increasing the overall Humanitarian Program intake from 12,000 places to 13,000.
James Thomson, spokesperson for the CWS/NCCA refugee program, said that the gesture would go a long way toward assisting some of the world's most desperate refugees, and was in line with increases in Australia's Migration intake, which had increased over previous years while there had been no increases in the humanitarian intake.
Thomson stated, however, that "while the churches do not agree with Australia's Pacific Solution, Australia's policy of naval interception has undoubtedly been successful. So successful, that it may be time for the Government to review the necessity of onshore deterrents such as mandatory detention and the use of Temporary Protection Visas."
"There is little point continuing to punish refugees arriving onshore to deter others when there is a naval blockade preventing ships reaching Australia."
"It must be understood that Australia's offshore program is voluntary. It assists the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to resettle refugees and Australian families reunite with relatives in danger overseas. Our onshore program is a matter of living up to the responsibility Australia undertook under international law to protect refugees arriving on our shores. They are very different programs and the Government should not have linked them by taking one place away from the offshore program for every refugee that arrives onshore."
James Thomson recently attended the Minister's Consultations in Adelaide where the NCCA and other refugee organizations:
* congratulated the Immigration Department for improvements to the offshore program,
* called for an increase in the overall humanitarian intake and the number of refugees within the program, and
* changes to the onshore program
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