2019 Election Opinion: Asylum seekers’ basic rights on the line

AAP Image/Supplied by Refugee Image

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has rebelled against the new medevac laws by preaching anti-refugee rhetoric. As the May 18 Federal Election nears, these are the ways the current government is promising to dehumanise asylum seekers in the name of national security.

The Labor party, the Greens and cross-benchers successfully passed the medevac bill through parliament in February this year, which allows asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island to get medical treatment in Australia. However, in response, the Prime Minister has re-opened Christmas Island at a cost of $1 billion, and promised to harden his stance on people smuggling.

Although Mr Morrison promised to abolish the laws once re-elected, he has backflipped on this statement and explained that the government will not amend the legislation – instead it will re-open Christmas Island, a detention centre notorious for mistreatment of asylum seekers and indefinite prison sentences.

Christmas Island discreetly closed in late 2018. Some who have visited described it as a brutal prison.

Australia’s current policies on asylum seekers have attracted negative attention from the most powerful intergovernmental organisation in the world, the United Nations (UN). The UN has denounced the conditions on Manus and Nauru.

The current government’s stance on ‘boat people’ following the introduction of the medevac laws has become an international “sick joke”, according to UN offical Indrika Ratwatte. On an international scale, it is recognised that the Liberal Party’s campaign of fear is a large reason it attracted votes at the ballot box at the last election.

The Labor Party has expressed an equally strong stance on the issue of people smuggling – as an election promise it has pledged to end the indefinite imprisonment of asylum seekers in offshore detention centres, instead offering re-settlement in other countries.

It is clear the Coalition is trying to recoup votes by increasing its fear mongering commentary on the asylum seeker topic. As the election approaches, it is apparent the government is disregarding the advice of key human rights organisations such as the UN. Asylum seekers will continue to be de-humanised if the Liberals are in power.


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