Australia must stop deporting refugees to danger

To Immigration Minister Alex Hawke and Prime Minister Scott Morrison:

Prior to the pandemic, almost 50,000 people who had arrived in Australia by plane and whose asylum claims had been rejected were awaiting deportation. Currently, almost 12,000 additional refugees who arrived by boat and hold bridging visas are at risk of deportation. There are several tens of thousands more on other temporary protection visas who cannot settle because the threat of future deportation hangs over them.

Many have fled countries and situations that are unsafe, such as Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Myanmar and Iran. The dangers are particularly acute for ethnic minorities and political dissidents and activists. In many places, the situation has been made more perilous by the pandemic. Vaccines are in dangerously short supply and civil strife in some countries has increased.

Australia is a signatory to the refugee convention, the foundation of which is the principle that people should not be returned to countries in which their “life or freedom would be threatened”. Yet, over the last two decades, Australian governments repeatedly have breached this principle, taking all kinds of measures to deny people’s claims and deporting refugees to death, torture, arrest and/or harassment in a host of countries.

This practice must stop. Australia should no longer deport people who have well-founded fears for their safety and well-being. To ease the uncertainty and suffering of refugees in Australia, we call on the federal government to:

1. Urgently cease deportations of asylum seekers, both scheduled and underway.

2. Abolish temporary protection visas and grant permanent protection to all TPV holders to remove the threat of future deportation.

3. Release asylum seekers from detention and transit accommodation centres.

4. Enact an amnesty for asylum seekers currently deemed “unlawful non-citizens”.

Initiated by the Tamil Refugee Council

Signatories include:

Craig Foster (broadcaster, author and former Socceroo)

Lee Rhiannon  (Australian Greens former federal Senator)

Bruce Haigh (political commentator and former diplomat)

Aran Mylvaganam (Tamil Refugee Council spokesperson and 2021 Senate candidate for Victorian Socialists)

Dr Daniel Lopez (contributing editor, Jacobin magazine)

Dr Jeff Sparrow (author)

Queensland University of Technology Student Guild University of Sydney Students’ Representative Council

University of Sydney Students’ Representative Council