Government must show leadership on migration and stop grandstanding: Oxfam

Campaigns and Advocacy, Humanitarian Advocacy, Media Releases, News article written on the 20 Sep 2016

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has persisted in spruiking a migration program at the United Nations summit in New York that traumatises and harms vulnerable asylum seekers and migrants, is extremely costly and is increasingly unpopular with the Australian public.

Oxfam’s Chief Executive Helen Szoke said rather than wasting time and grandstanding about the benefits of tough border control the Australian Government should be showing bold leadership and finding compassionate solutions for people fleeing war and persecution.

“The Government can play a constructive role in helping find global solutions to the migration crisis and commit to tripling Australia’s humanitarian intake from 13,750 this year to 42,000 by 2020-21,” Dr Szoke said.

“It must also resettle all of the 12,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees they agreed to take in a year ago by the first quarter of 2017 and provide further humanitarian funding to countries hosting large refugee populations such as Jordan, Lebanon and others.”

Dr Szoke said there have been numerous reports released in the couple of weeks, which show Australia’s offshore detention regime is dysfunctional and expensive with no return on that expense. It has also been strongly condemned by the international community, United Nations and humanitarian and human rights organisations.

“We are continuing to see heart wrenching reports of sexual abuse and assault, self-harm and hopelessness of refugees detained on Nauru and Manus Island with over 2,000 people left to languish in detention,” Dr Szoke said.

“Also, last week’s report by the Australian National Audit Office put the cost of Australia’s off-shore detention program at almost $600,000 per person every year and another recent study by UNICEF and Save the Children estimated the cost of off-shore detention at $9.6 billion over three years.  The extraordinary cost of offshore detention has not rated a mention in the Government’s commentary.

“We also know that Australia’s harmful offshore detention policy is increasingly unpopular with Australians, with a recent poll showing two thirds of Australians (66%) believe refugees on Nauru and Manus Island have been living in limbo for too long.”

“The processing centres on Nauru and Manus Island must be closed, and the refugees resettled in Australia,” Dr Szoke said.

Dr Szoke said this crisis is far too big for any one country to solve alone and Australia must show leadership on a global stage and work with other nations to give people a future.

“We cannot ignore the capacity of our nation to do more to support some of the 65 million people that have been forcibly displaced. We call on the Prime Minister to ramp up the Government’s efforts in line with other wealthy nations,” Dr Szoke said.

“Canada completed security checks and settled 25,000 additional Syrian refugees in just four months, but our Government has only resettled a fraction of the special intake of 12,000 Syrians and Iraqis agreed to in the last year.

“Based on Australia’s economy, population and the increasing numbers of people seeking refuge across the globe, our Government can and must commit to increasing Australia’s humanitarian intake.”

For interviews with Oxfam staff, please contact Dylan Quinnell on 0428 367 318 or