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Independent Member for Clark, Andrew Wilkie, re-introduced the Refugee Protection Bill 2019 to Parliament this morning. It was seconded by independent MP Dr Helen Haines.

“Confining people for an indefinite period of time, whether it be on Christmas Island, in Nauru or on Manus, was never a lawful, ethical or affordable policy. It’s grossly inhumane, breaches international human rights and refugee law, shirks Australia’s global and regional responsibilities, and is outrageously expensive,” Mr Wilkie said.

“In essence this bill is the enabling legalisation for Australia to commence the process of seeking to establish the Asia-Pacific Asylum Seeker Solution, or APASS. This would be a genuine regional solution, developed in accordance with international human rights law and UNHCR guidelines, based on a regional framework for the registration, processing and settlement of asylum seekers and refugees. Importantly it would build on existing forums such as the Bali Process, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the Asia Dialogue on Forced Migration.

“In outline the bill would facilitate the establishment of a network of centres, located in and run by Asia Pacific countries, where asylum seekers could go to be registered, have their immediate humanitarian needs met and lodge a preference for country of re-settlement. If the asylum seeker selects Australia, and is within the specified quota, their claim would be assessed in Australia with appropriate oversight, limited timeframes and judicial review. The bill does not allow mandatory detention.

“We need to stop talking about asylum seekers and refugees as a threat to national security, and start recognising that Australia has a legal and moral obligation to give protection to asylum seekers, quickly hear their claims and to provide permanent refuge if those claims are correct.”