Sydney, 13 November 2016- Jesuit Refugee Service Australia (JRS) welcomes today’s announcement by the Australian government that some refugees on Nauru and Manus Island will be resettled in the United States. The one-off arrangement for recognised refugees on Nauru and Manus Island will prioritise the resettlement of women, children, and family groups, but will also include male refugees on Manus Island. The government has so far provided no timeframes or specific details on the number of people who will be eligible.
“This arrangement will bring an end to three miserable years of uncertainty and suffering, and allow people finally to rebuild their lives in safety and with dignity,” says Oliver White, Assistant Director of JRS.
“We look forward to the government releasing further details about this agreement, and urge both the Australian and U.S. governments to act quickly, so that resettlement can get underway.”
The U.S. resettlement plan is a tacit acknowledgment on the part of the Australian government of the utter failure of its cruel offshore processing policy. JRS endorses the position of the United Nations’ refugee agency, UNHCR, that the U.S resettlement agreement does not alter Australia’s obligations under international law, including respecting the right to seek asylum irrespective of the mode of arrival.
JRS remains gravely concerned for the future and well-being of those people who will be unable to resettle in the U.S.
“Not everyone on Nauru and Manus Island will be eligible for resettlement in the U.S. under this arrangement. We urge the Australian government to continue its efforts to find solutions for all vulnerable people left stranded on Nauru and Manus Island,” said Mr. White.
JRS is also concerned about refugees on Nauru or Manus Island who have family members in Australia. JRS urges the Minister for Immigration to consider resettling in Australia those people with family already in Australia and permit them to resettle here.
“The right to family reunification is fundamental to people’s well-being and is crucial for successful resettlement,” says Mr. White.
Finally, JRS urges the government to abandon its policies of deterrence, and to collaborate with its neighbours in the region to establish a standardised system of regional protection for refugees that is underpinned by principles of justice and compassion.
“Minister Dutton said today he had a strong message for the people smugglers – that the government would be increasing its efforts to secure the country’s borders.”
“Yet again the Minister intentionally misrepresents the problem as one of people smugglers rather than a lack of adequate protection for refugees in our region.”
“The government should be investing in strengthening protection for refugees in the Asia Pacific region, so that the need for people to take dangerous and often perilous journeys by sea is removed.”