What are the changes?

Yesterday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced a proposal to resettle refugees from Nauru and Manus Island, PNG to the United States of America.

RACS welcomes the Australian Government’s recognition that Nauru is not a viable option for resettlement for the many vulnerable women, children and young men which are detained there. Further, RACS is relieved to see this same opportunity extended to those on Manus Island.

Despite this positive step towards resettlement, RACS remains fundamentally opposed to offshore detention and processing and continues to advocate for the right of people to seek asylum in Australia.

Who will go to the US?

At this stage, the Australian Government have not provided any specific details. The Government has announced a vague plan to process children and families as a priority. The Government has also stated that this will be a one-off deal for those who were transferred to Nauru or Manus Island on or after 19 July 2013 and remain offshore, or are a transitory person here in Australia receiving medical treatment.

What are RACS concerns?

Sarah Dale, Acting Principal Solicitor says in light of the progress “We must not forget the families that will be separated by this potential policy. We have seen in the media the story of Nayser[1], a Rohingya man on Manus Island separated from his wife and children in Sydney. This is just one example of many families who are presently separated between Australia, Nauru and Manus. A policy which continues to prevent refugees from uniting with their families is a breach of fundamental rights and not one we should be celebrating. A case by case assessment should be applied and by no means is a lifetime ban on any future visa applications to Australia warranted.”

Further, Ms Dale identifies that “RACS also holds deep concerns for people in transit that have been in Australia seeking medical treatment. Many of these people, families in particular have built lives in Australia. They are receiving critical support from medical professionals and are engaged in communities who embrace them. For these people RACS says #LetThemStay and let Australia demonstrate the compassion that we know we all share.”

“We have a basic plan, but no specific details. RACS works with many people who this will affect and as lawyers we struggle to answer their questions. This uncertainty is causing great distress in the community.” Emphasises Ms Dale.

“RACS is working with many of the unaccompanied children who remain detained on Nauru. We would strongly advocate that these now young men are processed as a matter of urgency due to the horrific effect this detention has had on them as children.”

Ms Dale states “Most of these young men are relieved at the opportunity for freedom. They have lived in fear and limbo for the past 3 years and finally they are seeing some light and hope again. However, they have lived through many disappointments over the past 3 years, they are reserving their happiness until any details are confirmed.”

As one young man told RACS “I am extremely happy, but so scared that we will be left here and forgotten again.”

For further media contact please call Sarah Dale, Acting Principal Solicitor on 0413 812 267.
[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDH9QM5ARgc

14 November 2016