The Abbott government's proposed deal to dump refugees in Cambodia is disturbing news, and anyone concerned with human rights of those fleeing persecution should be very concerned.
Indeed, the proposal will put them in serious danger, given a history of whippings, caning and electric shock torture in Cambodia, as will the fact that refugees who are resettled there are unlikely to gain employment rights, get an education, or be given permanent residency, which the Australian Council for International Development has made clear.
As it has pointed out, Australia has entered “unchartered territory” by resettling refugees in a developing country known for its questionable human rights and political instability
The UN has also slammed Australia for its dodgy deal with Cambodia and the Abbott Government must recognise that it is on the verge of making a terrible mistake.
Instead a genuine regional solution would see Australia burden sharing, not burden shifting, when it comes to refugees.
This is borne out by fresh information we are seeing about the riots on Manus Island and the death of refugee Reza Barati.
The recent ABC’s Four Corners investigation into those Island attacks showed the horrible truth behind the Manus detention camp and the brutal violence that took place there in February, to which the Australian Government’s response has been woefully inadequate.
The camp is untenable and must be closed down now as the Immigration Minister cannot guarantee the safety of refugees and Australian workers on Manus Island.
Tensions are rising within the camp again and it’s only a matter of time before more people are hurt.
However, there is a solution. Instead of relying on cruelty Australia can care for refugees while saving lives at sea by assessing claims for asylum here whilst they live in the community.
At the same time we should increase the number of refugees that Australia takes.
This will give people a safer way to reach protection than a dangerous boat journey, an approach that saved countless lives in the wake of the Vietnam War, to the credit of the then Fraser government.
At a time when the world is facing a humanitarian crisis we should be extending a hand to those in need, not locking the door and throwing away the key.
So instead of shifting the burden on to regional developing countries we must take our fair share and help carry the burden by increasing the number of refugees we take.