The growing calls for the reopening of Pontville to facilitate more humane onshore processing of asylum seekers are welcome and timely, said Greens Leader Kim Booth MP whose call for Tasmania to become an asylum seeker haven was the centre-piece of his key note speech at the Greens’ State Conference last month.
“The cruel Abbott regime of offshore detention centres offends humanity and also makes no economic sense,” Mr Booth said.
“It has been revealed this week that in this financial year already the federal government has spent more than $1 billion to keep 2200 asylum seekers in the offshore detention hell-holes in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.”
“Senate hearings heard that it cost taxpayers $632.3 million to run the Manus Island detention centre, and $582.4 million to run Nauru’s facility. At the same costing our nation’s humanitarian reputation internationally as the world stands shocked at the deaths, the self-harm, the children in custody, and the misery.”
“Only this week we saw Papua New Guinea Prime Minister announce PNG will be delaying taking confirmed refugees for resettlement, leaving these people in further limbo. This flawed and cruel scheme is not working at any level.”
“We have to stop this.”
“This is why the Greens pledged last month to work with other community organisations, churches, and individuals to help develop proposal such as that suggested by Julian Burnside QC, that some of that $1 billion is instead reinvested in making Tasmania an asylum seeker haven, and to then put that developed proposal to both State and Federal governments.”
“Under this proposal we would see asylum seekers detained initially, potentially in facilities such as Pontville, for a short period for health and security checks, after which these people would be released into the community on an interim visa until the person’s refugee status is determined.”
“The benefits this scheme would have for Tasmania and Tasmanians include boosting skills available and money circulating through our regional and local economies, as asylum seekers pay rent, buy food, and pay other bills.”
“Following my announcement of this commitment at last month’s state conference, my office received many supportive calls and correspondence from Tasmanians who were so ashamed of the Abbott offshore internment camp policy, and who also wanted to stand up and say ‘not in my name’.”
“Tasmania, whether at Pontville or elsewhere in our state, can do the right thing by our fellow human beings, and in a careful manner which also secures skills and economic benefits for our local and regional economies, Mr Booth said.