Tuesday, 18 March 2014
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Senator Cash. Can the minister advise the Senate how the coalition government's border protection policies ensure that fairness is a cornerstone of our refugee and humanitarian resettlement program?
I thank Senator Smith for his ongoing interest in border protection. It is a fact that Australia runs one of the most generous humanitarian settlement programs globally. However, the sad truth is that, in any one year, less than one per cent of the world's 10.5 million refugees will be resettled. In any one year, over nine million people will miss out.
Let me relate to the Senate but one story, that of a 10-year-old refugee, as reported by the UNHCR. This 10-year-old refugee and the millions like her are the ones that the former Labor-Greens government deliberately turned their backs on when they dismantled the former Howard government's strong border protection policies. This is the story of Halima from Somalia:
"One morning my mother took me, my sister and my baby brother and left our house. It took us three weeks to walk here."
Holding her baby brother, 10-year-old Halima queues to receive her vaccinations at the Liboi Reception Centre for Somali refugees on the Kenyan/Somali border.
… … …
It took us three weeks to walk here. My mum carried some food and we also begged in the villages we passed. We got here two days ago. They have taken our names and given us food. We have to wait here for about a week for our papers to be checked and then a truck is coming to take us to our new home. My sandals broke on the way here. I am wishing for new sandals."
Halima and her family are now living with some 280,000 Somalis in three massive refugee camps in the Dadaab region of eastern Kenya.
The places in our humanitarian program are precious, and that is why this government will restore integrity on our borders.
Opposition senators interjecting—
Mr President, I have a supplementary question. Can the minister explain to the Senate how previous border protection policies provided an unfair playing field for those genuine refugees seeking to come to Australia through legitimate channels?
The policies of the former Labor-Greens government were directly responsible for the unfair playing field in relation to genuine refugees seeking to come to Australia. Labor and the Greens deliberately outsourced the management of Australia's border protection to the people smugglers, who then sold places in our humanitarian settlement program to the highest bidder. We saw one of them last night on the ABC's 7.30 program, a Mr Arash Sedigh, who admitted that the reason he had come illegally to Australia—he had tried two times—was that 'his skilled migration visa had been refused'. So he wanted to come to Australia by boat so he could get a job. There is nothing fair about those policies. (Time expired)
Unlike under the former policies of Labor, which were supported wholeheartedly by the Greens, these refugees will have a chance of obtaining one of the very precious places in Australia's Humanitarian Settlement Services program. The fundamental difference between the policies now implemented by the Abbott government and the former policies of the Labor-Greens government is that every one of those 13,750 precious places in our program will go to refugees languishing in UNHCR camps—refugees like 10-year-old Halima from Somalia, whom the former government, supported wholeheartedly by the Greens, deliberately turned their backs on. There is nothing compassionate about a policy of deliberately turning your backs on people who are languishing in UNHCR camps. (Time expired)