Save the Children has welcomed the Turnbull Government’s resettlement agreement with the United States as an opportunity to restore hope and provide a pathway towards a safe and prosperous future for refugees who have spent years languishing on Nauru and Manus Island.
Save the Children Australia chief executive, Paul Ronalds, said: “We welcome this agreement. Getting people from Nauru and Manus Island to safety is a priority of the highest order, and the Turnbull Government should be commended for finally negotiating an outcome that allows many people an opportunity to move forward with their lives.
“The pain and misery that has been felt by asylum seeker children and their families on Nauru and Manus Island has been a black mark on Australia’s conscience, and can never be undone” Mr Ronalds said.
“We must celebrate that these children are now finally being given the opportunity to fulfil their full potential. Many will no doubt go on to do remarkable things, becoming doctors, teachers, academics, business leaders, nurses, politicians, humanitarians and artists.
“We hope someday they will find it in their hearts to visit Australia, and that our politicians will have the wisdom and decency to ensure that they are never barred from doing so.
“The Turnbull Government must ensure these refugees are provided with the full complement of support, services and rights, including access to health, education, employment, travel rights, support for family reunification and a pathway towards citizenship, when they are resettled in the US.”
Mr Ronalds said with resettlement now a reality for refugee children and their families currently in the offshore processing system, the Australian Government must also clarify details around the prospects for family unification for those who have been separated by current policies.
The Government must also look to find an alternative solution for people whose claims for asylum have been rejected, Mr Ronalds said. After up to three years in offshore processing, Australia owes these people a duty of care that ensures their rights are respected, including proper avenues of appeal, he added.
Mr Ronalds also said that now was the time for the Turnbull Government to work towards a more humane and effective immigration system that sees Australia working as closely as possible with other countries in the Asia Pacific region to establish a functioning regional protection framework.
“The Government should now redouble its efforts through the Bali Process and other forums to establish a more effective and humane regional processing regime that accords with international obligations, truly protects asylum seekers, and restores our diplomatic standing in the region and across the globe,” Mr Ronalds said.
In September, Save the Children and UNICEF Australia published the At What Cost? report, which revealed the $9.6 billion bill since 2013 that Australian taxpayers have carried to establish and maintain the country’s current punitive asylum seeker policies, which includes offshore processing.
Save the Children worked on Nauru from August 2013 to October 2015, and Manus Island before that, providing education, welfare, child protection and recreational activities for refugees and asylum seekers.
Source: Save the Children