Monday, October 11, 2010

Asylum seekers in Australia - Chris Bowen addresses migration in his new role as Minister

Embrace Australia reports, "in his first major public address as Minister for Immigration & Citizenship, Chris Bowen spoke of the importance of immigration and multiculturalism to Australia “Immigration is central to the fabric of our nation, with around two in five Australians born overseas, or with a parent who was born overseas. I’m one of them. My father’s family – the Bowens – migrated to Australia from Wales in the 1860s to mine coal. My mother came here 100 years later – in the 1960s – as a self-described ‘ten pound tourist’. So I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Australia’s migration program”

Bowen also advocated Australia adopting a “middle position” on asylum seekers and boat people “we must comply with our refugee convention obligations but that we must have as orderly and fair process as possible, that we must rigorously check claims for asylum – will not be popular with either side of a polarised debate. But it is the only sustainable policy. Sound grabs are presented as simple solutions in this debate. The cheap talk of ‘turning the boats back’ comes easily but doesn’t mean much. Sound policy takes more thought”

Bowen added that a regional processing centre would only succeed within a regional framework “A Regional Protection Framework, in line with United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) principles, and is a mechanism to bring more fairness to the treatment of asylum seekers while removing the incentive for people to undertake dangerous journeys by boat”

Bowen was giving the keynote address at the opening of the Migration 2010 Conference in Sydney.

This all sounds sensible in theory. This blog has argued for a regional framework for years. It worked in the case of the Vietnamese refugees, many of who came by boat. However, in the absence of bipartisanship on this subject every step toward a solution that protects human rights and meets national security imperatives is muddied and trivialised for political gain. Until there is a quantum of maturity and sophistication brought to the contest of ideas on this subject, asylum seekers will continue to be kicked from pillar to post in a tawdry political game.

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