Labors perfect storm

first_img Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagram Two prominent figures in the broad coalition wanting a change of federal government, believe asylum seekers’ well-being is at the core of their different roles. But there couldn’t be more polarity in their response to the ALP’s new policy.“Australia can’t accept everyone who wants to live here. We need a response that is fair, has integrity and is consistent with the safety of human lives. Maria Vamvakinou“You don’t protect people by turning them back, you protect refugees by providing safe alternatives. Kon KarapanagiotidisChampion of asylum seekers’ rights Kon Karapanagiotidis, founder of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in Melbourne, believes the move is a failure of Bill Shorten’s leadership, and that history will condemn him for “following the Liberal Party in a race to the bottom”, while Labor MP Maria Vamvakinou says turning back the boats is a solution consistent with the most crucial issue – that of saving lives.While Labor is likely to go to the next election saying it will “stop the boats” as effectively as Tony Abbott, its policy also commits it to doubling the refugee intake to 27,000, ending Temporary Protection Visas and increasing funding to the UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, by $450 million.Maria Vamvakinou, who chairs the Joint Standing Committee on Migration, says the “60 million people on the move around the world” is a problem faced by the global community, and Labor’s turnaround is simple common sense.“No country has found a solution to this problem, as I witnessed on my recent trip to Greece where I saw recent boat arrivals in their hundreds sleeping in parks,” Ms Vamvakinou told Neos Kosmos.“Australia can’t accept everyone who wants to live here. We need a response that is fair, has integrity and is consistent with the safety of human lives. “The simple truth is that when boats were not allowed to land on Australian shores, they stopped coming. Whilst this may seem a brutal statement, the evidence is clear.”1,500 deaths at sea prior to the Abbott government’s intervention she added was “unacceptable”, and that any policy that encouraged people to enter Australia illegally by sea was inhumane.“Labor’s new policy is to double our refugee intake and invest properly in regional and international efforts to deal with a serious global issue,” she said.“These points are often overlooked by those who want to talk only about boats. This is a complex issue that requires a firm and holistic response.”Kon Karapanagiotidis unsurprisingly takes a different view. He says the plight of those seeking a safe haven on Australian shores is a moral issue and both the government and the ALP cannot guarantee that turning back people on boats would not render them to danger and death elsewhere.“When we talk about people being turned back at sea, we’re not talking about boats; we’re talking about human beings,” he says.“We need to be asking, why is it a tragedy when people drown in our seas, but not a tragedy when we turn people back to drown in more distant seas to drown somewhere else, or to die at the hands of a torturer.“You don’t protect people by turning them back, you protect refugees by providing safe alternatives.”Karapanagiotidis said he welcomed Labor’s pledge to increasing the refugee intake and ending Temporary Protection Visas but added he would have preferred a doubling of the refugee intake taking effect immediately, not over 10 years as proposed.“If you’re going to stop people getting onto boats – because remember people only take boats because it’s the safest option they have available to them, as sad or awful as that is – you need those places now, not in 10 years time,” he said.Asked about the Greek Australian community’s response to the immigration polices of both major parties, in a stinging rebuke, Karapanagiotidis said much of the community was conservative, and chose to disassociate with refugees.“We are now living in a country where all the things that have helped make this country great – Greek immigration, multiculturalism – are the things that both parties are failing to protect and stand up for,” he said“We come from refugee blood, we should be proud of it.”What’s clear from the debate within Labor, is that the issue will be fought and argued over until the next election. The impact of that fight will resonate for years to come.last_img read more

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