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Statement on Australian Refugee Policy (2012)

The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies reaffirms its existing policy calling for the compassionate treatment of refugees by the Australian Government, which states as follows:

The NSW Jewish Community reaffirms its support for a humane refugee admission program in Australia.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the Convention on the Status of Refugees which grew out of the need to assist Jews seeking new homes after the Shoah. We recall with pride the efforts of many Jewish advocates in developing the Convention, and, the important contribution that refugees, and in particular Jewish refugees, have made to the development of Australia.

It is essential that in a developed nation such as Australia, which takes such pride in its multiculturalism and respect for human rights, refugee policy respects these ideals.

The following key points reflect the NSW Jewish Community's perspective on admission of asylum seekers to Australia:

  1. We affirm the Australian Government's right to establish and maintain its own immigration policy and to screen all potential immigrants. The admission of asylum seekers is a humanitarian act, and differs from other aspects of immigration policy. It also is subject to international law in a way that other immigration policy is not.

  2. The Australian Jewish Community reaffirms its view that Australia's Government and the Parliament should work constructively with other governments and appropriate non-government organisations to ameliorate the plight of refugees around the world and in Australia, and to implement Australia's important legal and moral obligations with respect to refugees.

  3. In that context there needs to be: 

    • an end to a system in which many refugee applicants - including women, children, the elderly and those with special needs - are subject to non-reviewable mandatory detention. Non-reviewable mandatory detention is wrong for refugees and asylum seekers, other than those reasonably suspected of wrongdoing, for whom reviewable detention may be appropriate.

    • an end to the temporary protection visa regime because the grant of only temporary protection is a breach of Australia's obligations under Article 31 of the Refugee Convention. The Convention envisages prompt and effective assessment of claims to refugee status, so that those who are entitled to protection as refugees are admitted without having to face further discrimination, and those who are not entitled to refugee status are dealt with in accordance with existing immigration laws.

    • an end to the application of dehumanising labels to asylum seekers and refugees and inappropriate discrimination against onshore asylum seekers.

  4. We particularly call on the Australian Government not to be tempted by present exigencies to veer from Australia's important legal and moral obligations with respect to refugees, and we support Australia's continued commitment to the Refugee Convention.

We also take this opportunity to acknowledge again the great benefits that multiculturalism, aided by immigration, has created for Australian society as a whole. The Jewish community of New South Wales respects all ethnic and religious communities and looks forward to continuing harmonious relationships with them long into the future. 

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