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Friday, 02 May 2014 11:30

Proposed policy of Cambodia refugee resettlement unacceptable

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Amid reports of a proposal from the Australian government to resettle refugees in Cambodia, the Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office (ACMRO) and Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Australia were among those speaking out against the proposed policy.

In a media statement from the Australian Catholic Migrant  and Refugee Office (ACMRO), Bishop Gerard Hanna, Australian Catholic Bishops Delegate for Migrants and Refugees said “Resettlement is about integrating refugees from poverty and oppression into a community that has the capacity to provide economic and social opportunities as well as peace and safety.”

“Any attempts to expand resettlement should concentrate on the resettlement of refugees from countries experiencing humanitarian crisis, not from developed nations redirecting asylum seekers, which is the current policy in Australia.”

“It is unacceptable to place pressure on Cambodia to resettle refugees from Australia at a time when so many poorer nations are struggling to host significantly larger refugee populations,” he added.

Jesuit Refugee Service Australia (JRS) also released a statement stating that the Australian government has breached its legal responsibility towards refugees and committed grave ethical blunders in its application of offshore processing procedures.

JRS also urged the government to move towards a Regional Cooperation Framework, instead of using a strategy of regional deterrence. A Regional Cooperation Framework would help transit states in the region to differentiate between asylum seekers, refugees and other migrants, says JRS’ Head of Policy and Advocacy, Oliver White.

“Cooperation, consistency and subscribing to universally accepted standards of protection are the way forward to ensure more equitable burden-sharing for states and to protect refugees transiting through Asia Pacific. Standardising procedures means refugees will face the same treatment, no matter where they go, and increasing protection in transit countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia will reduce the need for onward movement.”

JRS has also criticised the Australian government for preventing asylum seekers from accessing its jurisdiction – and in so doing its effective systems of processing – by diverting asylum flows to other states, such as Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Nauru.

“This undermines the essence of the Refugee Convention’s notion of asylum, which upholds people’s right to travel irregularly and choose when and where to flee. It makes no sense to establish offshore processing centres in countries where there are no asylum seekers. If Australia would like to help process the many thousands of asylum seekers left stranded in places like Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia then this is where they should start ,” says Mr White.

(Licensed photo from iStock)

Read the media statement "Catholic Church Against Refugee Resettlement Proposal in Cambodia" from the Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office.

Read the media statement "Government has breached its legal responsibilities towards refugees, says JRS" from Jesuit Refugee Service Australia.