Sunday, August 20, 2006

Letter to the Canberra Times: Don't Judge Asylum Seekers without a fair hearing of their claims

Jane Keogh, a refugee advocate from Canberra, has written the following letter to the Canberra Times Editor:

"M Gordon, in his letter of 16 August, shows both overwhelming ignorance and prejudice on the issue of asylum seekers. He makes unsubstantiated and false claims that most asylum seekers are economic migrants misusing the Refugee Convention and making dubious claims. Any study of the figures would have shown him that the overwhelming majority of those who came by boat to seek asylum in Australia have been proven to be real refugees who fled persecution. He also infers that the asylum seekers taken this week to Nauru have come here to exploit our system. Any cursory knowledge of the current human rights situation in Burma, from where our recent arrivals are said to have come, would give any fair minded Australian cause to at least listen to their claims before judging them.

The real shame to Australia is that in putting asylum seekers on Nauru without access to the Australian legal system, or to independent assessment of their claims, Australia is sidestepping our obligations under the Refugee Convention. The human and fair course of action, as recognised by most western countries except Australia, is to at least give asylum seekers a fair hearing. Most Australians believe in a fair go and the government's humiliating defeat on its unauthorized Arrivals Bill this week has shown that most Australians are now better informed on the issue and want a reversal of Australia's system of locking up genuine refugees for years or forcing them back to persecution."


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