Australia and the Refugee Crisis

There was a time when Australia led the way on refugee protection. Following World War II, Australia came second only to the United States on resettling European refugees. Its signature brought the Refugee Convention into force a few years later. And, in the 1970s, it resettled the third highest number of Indochinese refugees following the wars there.

Sadly those days are a distant memory. After earning global notoriety for the cruelty it continues to inflict on refugees and people seeking asylum on Nauru and Manus Island, the Australian government showed it is capable of worse. It not only refused to shut down its centres on the two Pacific islands, but planned to introduce a law to permanently ban the people trapped there from getting a visa to Australia. Not only is this a clear violation of international law, but it is a cruel and mean-spirited move to further discriminate against how people travel to Australia in search of safety. As a state party to the Refugee Convention, the Australian government has an obligation to treat asylum-seekers and refugees humanely and safely resettle them. Instead, it chose to pile one injustice on top of another.

Dr. Anna Neistat is Senior Research  Director for Amnesty International and has prepared reports for Amnesty around the world. In 2016 she led the Amnesty investigation into the treatment of refugees on the island of Nauru. She will look at the background to the treatment of refugees in Australia and will also talk about the wider international context of the increasingly punitive treatment of refugees and asylum seekers worldwide.

18.45 on Monday 30th October