Dear [Dr Clam],
Thank you for your letter concerning the treatment of asylum
seekers who have entered Australia without authorisation.
We appreciate your comments and understand your concern for these people, the vast majority of whom are fleeing oppressive regimes.
Immigration detention is a sensitive issue. Policy in this area must balance the rights of asylum seekers, who have gained unauthorised entry into Australia but who are not by and large violent criminals, against the damage that the unmonitored release of large numbers of refugee claimants could inflict on our community in terms of illegal employment and health risks.
In its review of policy for the coming election, the Labor Party is
undertaking a review of immigration detention issues.
Australia has benefited hugely from our intake of migrants and refugees and has an enviable reputation in the field of human rights. Labor policy on this issue is framed with this in mind, and within the provisions of the 1951 Refugee Convention and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
We acknowledge the need to preserve the dignity and human rights of asylum seekers who have arrived in Australia without authorisation, while addressing community concerns about the cost of detention and the need to enforce strict health and character testing. The process of refugee determination needs to be streamlined to ensure that genuine refugees, and in particular young children, are assessed and released into the community as soon as possible, in order to minimise any recurrent trauma associated with long-term detention.
We recognise the importance of providing refugees with access to appropriate counselling and settlement services to help them adjust
to life here, so that they can set up home for themselves and their families and contribute to the community. We believe that measures must be taken to ensure that unauthorised arrivals who do not satisfy the criteria for protection established by the UNHCR are deported as soon as practicable, both to uphold the integrity of our migration program and send a decisive message to the people-smugglers and their victims.
We consider that the allegations raised in the Four Corners TV program about conditions and management practices in detention centres such as Villawood are further evidence of the need for an independent judicial inquiry into these centres.
The Government has obviously lost control of the immigration detention regime. No distinctions are being made between those asylum seekers who have a high likelihood of being granted refugee status, but whose application process is not yet complete, and those detainees who in many cases have failed in their applications and are now awaiting deportation.
Though we continue to support a regime of compulsory detention of unauthorised arrivals in order to carry out thorough health and
character checks, a future Labor Government will ensure that asylum seekers who are likely to be granted refugee status are not kept in detention for a moment longer than necessary, especially women, children, the frail and other vulnerable people.
Thank you again for taking the time to let me know of your concerns.
Kim C Beazley
Leader of the Opposition
However, I actually didn't write anything 'concerning the treatment of asylum seekers who have entered Australia without authorisation'. This is my letter:
Dear Sir -
I am concerned about our nation's failure to take significant numbers of refugees. The only way to stop illegal immigration with its attendant horrors is to have a viable channel of legal immigration
open to refugees, to the tune of say 200-250 000 a year (Far less in per capita terms than Israel has coped with at numerous times in its
I know you would be pilloried for suggesting any such thing, but
please keep our moral duty in mind should you win government!
From my postcode, you can see (a) that I am in a safe Labor seat anyway, so can't offer you anything ;) and (b) I am not from some leafy anglo-celtic neighbourhood preaching tolerance to others - my suburb is full of Australians from all over the world and I like it that way.