Achieving A Just Refugee Policy for 2018

People Just Like Us Submission

ALP National Platform Consultation Draft 2018

People Just Like Us was established in Feb 2015 and it includes asylum seekers, refugees, migrants and individual members who are multilingual. We have decades of direct experience of the refugee crisis and experience in public policy development. We are formed for all people fighting the cruel, and inhumane treatment of refugees and asylum seekers under Australia's immigration regime.

Prolonged toxic political and Government propaganda regarding refugees has led to a rise in xenophobia and Islamophobia throughout Australia. We recommend the creation of an independent vanguard organisation that draws upon (but is separate from) the Refugee Advocacy Sector, Labor and government to revive and extend the idea of a humane and transparent humanitarian refugee migration program.

This agency can promote this program to the general public as part of a “Fair Go”. “Every Australian Counts” was the name of the organisation which prepared the public to recognise the need for an NDIS under the then Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children's Services, Bill Shorten. It is a suitable model for raising public awareness about the powerhouse of opportunity that enterprising, courageous and talented refugees bring to Australia.

The aim of this submission is to offer Labor a concrete, easy to follow plan, with tangible benefits for the broadest possible range of Labor members, voters, community and refugees.

The refugee debate should never be about border security. Asylum seekers and refugees are not invaders to our border. They are people just like us; they are people  desperately seeking protection at our doorstep.

Labor won’t win the debate on “toughen” vs “soften” borders, boat turn-backs, or (indefinite) offshore detention against the Liberal because the discussion has been framed by the Liberals. Labors needs to distinguish itself from the Liberals. There is no limit to cruelty and inhumanity, not to mention the moral depravity which the current policy entails.

The only chance for Labor to win the refugee debate is to reframe it under humanity and compassion. Only with a policy as outlined in #TurnBackToHumanity can Labor  have a chance of defeating the LNP in the coming election.

Ideal Labor Policy—The Points:

We acknowledge “ALP National Platform Consultation Draft 2018”, paragraph(s) 233-301 which deal with ALP Migration policy and Humanitarian Migration Programme. We commend many of the points raised and hope Labor will commit firmly to them.

However, we have concerns regarding the detention of children and unaccompanied minors, around the exception clauses in the 90-day limit on mandatory detention, around the incompatibility of the deterrence model with a truly humanitarian migration program, around the retention of offshore detention in particular, given the long history of previous abuses that have occurred in the system.

What #TurnBackToHumanity can do for Australia and the ALP

Discussion of ALP National Platform Consultation Draft

Labor asserts: “We share a common faith in Australia’s oldest idea: a Fair Go all round. That is the tradition we respect and the evolving mission we pledge ourselves to today,” and ... “In the Asian Century, let us continue to seek security in our region, not from it.“

People Just Like Us applauds Labor’s commitment to A Human Rights Framework ‘that reflects our international obligations necessary to deliver our commitment to fundamental rights across social and economic policies. We are committed to promoting awareness and understanding of human rights, supporting the international human rights instruments to which Australia is a signatory. We endorse funding and support of a politically independent Australian Human Rights Commission, an autonomous agency that plays a critical role in our society. Labor will adhere to Australia’s international human rights obligations and will seek to have them incorporated into the domestic law of Australia and taken into account in administrative decision-making and whenever new laws and policies are developed.’  We urge Labor to enact the necessary laws for a Bill of Rights into Australian domestic law without delay. We remind Labor that people have human rights because they are human, not only because they are Australian. Therefore, such human rights must be applied to all aspects of  A Humanitarian Migration Program.

Policy Suggestions

Paragraph 240. Labor believes that as a country Australia must not harm people.

The 90 day detention policy with an exceptions clause  [Paragraph 269] can lead to a repeat of drawn-out situations. We have already seen people trapped in detention for 4 to 7 years under the Rudd and Gillard Labor Governments. People have harmed and hung themselves under Labor, while the 90 day detention limit was on the statutes.


Paragraph 258. Those not found to be owed Australia’s protection under the Refugee Convention, Complimentary Protection or and other international instruments will be promptly returned only after any relevant legal avenues have been exhausted.

Children in Detention

Paragraph 301. Labor will legislate to impose mandatory reporting of child abuse in all onshore immigration detention facilities and offshore regional processing centres and work with all state and territory governments to ensure all unaccompanied minor refugee children are covered by the relevant child protection authorities. 

[1] UNHCR. “Guidelines on the Applicable Criteria and Standards relating to the Detention of Asylum-Seekers and Alternatives to Detention”. http://www.refworld.org/docid/503489533b8.html

[2] Eryk Bagshaw & Matt Wade. “Joint Treasury-Home Affairs analysis highlights economic benefits of Australia's immigration intake”. Sydney Morning Herald online, 16 April 2018. https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/joint-treasury-home-affairs-analysis-highlights-economic-benefits-of-australia-s-immigration-intake-20180416-p4z9yi.html

[3] The Bali Process Website. https://www.baliprocess.net/

[4] Isaacs, D. Text of speech to AMA. https://ama.com.au/sites/default/files/Prof_David_Isaacs_Speech.pdf

[5] Sanggaran JP, Haire B, Zion D. The health care consequences of Australia’s
immigration policies. PLoS Med 2016;13:e1001960.

[6] Sultan A, O’Sullivan K. Psychological disturbances in asylum seekers held in long
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[7] Steel Z, Momartin S, Bateman C, et al. Psychiatric status of asylum seeker families
held for a protracted period in a remote detention centre in Australia. Aust NZ J
Public Health 2004;28:527–36.

[8] Mares S, Jureidini J. Psychiatric assessment of children and families in immigration
detention--clinical, administrative and ethical issues. Aust NZ J Public Health

[9] Robjant K, Hassan R, Katona C. Mental health implications of detaining asylum
seekers: systematic review. Br J Psychiatry 2009;194:306–12.

[10] Dudley M, Steel Z, Mares S, et al. Children and young people in immigration

detention. Curr Opin Psychiatry 2012;25:285–92.