Humanitarian approach to boats

Nam Pham of Kensington is critical of Australia’s asylum seeker policies. Picture: David Baylis d407556
Nam Pham of Kensington is critical of Australia’s asylum seeker policies. Picture: David Baylis d407556

‘The arrival of asylum-seekers to Australia by boat, involving the tragic loss of many innocent lives at sea, is a humanitarian challenge that requires a humanitarian response,’ he said.

‘As a founding signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, Australia needs to protect the rights of the refugee and uphold the principles of asylum.

‘The kind of response we see from both the Labor and Liberal parties is one of short-sighted approach to deterrence measures.’

The former president of the Vietnamese Community Australia said the Liberal Government’s Operation Sovereign Borders was a military-led response to border protection and a political ‘scare mongering tactic, that’s got nothing to do with border protection’.

With the Navy turning back boats, Mr Pham said if Mr Abbott was willing to take up the challenge of being on the boats that he turns back he’d understand why it wasn’t safe to do so most of the time.

‘Most of these boats are not seaworthy and by the end of the long and rough journey, are ready to fall apart,’ he said.

‘I know many stories of Vietnamese refugees, during the peak of the boat people exodus, reporting their boat simply fell apart on or near arrival of their destination.

‘The life and death decision cannot be made by someone who has never been on one of these boats before.’

Mr Pham said reintroducing the temporary protection visas would cost lives and make life hell for those with the visas.

He said politicians did not understand asylum seekers, their reasons for seeking asylum, their journey or their suffering.

‘The reason many are seeking asylum is due to them fleeing harassment and persecution in their home,’ Mr Pham said.

‘A better approach would be engaging with other countries in the region through meaningful co-operation and collaboration.

‘In the case of Vietnam, the government needs to put diplomatic pressure on Vietnam to respect human rights and stop harassing and persecuting its citizens and allow religious freedom and freedom of speech,’ he said.