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Treatment of asylum seekers must be an election issue, says AASW

Published: 19 June 2018

In Refugee Week, the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) calls for immediate action from both major parties to address Australia's horrific treatment of asylum seekers.

Australia has an important history of protecting human rights, but the government’s current policy direction undermines this legacy. This year’s theme for Refugee Week is #WithRefugees, and the AASW, and the social workers it represents, stand with asylum seekers and refugees, in demanding action by the government on their policies and approach to meeting the needs of refugees and asylum seekers.

AASW National President Christine Craik said, “The treatment of asylum seekers, including children, in indefinite mandatory offshore detention constitute significant human rights violations. As social workers, we see the consequences of these policies firsthand and they are having devastating impacts.

“We have and will continue to advocate for a more humane approach, based on empathy and compassion.”

As well as the internationally condemned indefinite mandatory offshore detention policy, the Australian Government earlier this year also removed income support from asylum seekers on bridging visas, including those who were students studying English. At the same time, the government also decided to revive an English test for new migrants.

Ms Craik said, “This move ultimately disempowers asylum seekers to integrate into Australian society, by forcing desperation and poverty onto already vulnerable people. Social workers are providing pro bono services to asylum seekers to address the sudden removal of income support.”

Australia is on the UN Human Rights Council, despite numerous UN reports arguing that Australia’s policies are tantamount to torture. Given the importance of the Human Rights Council and its leadership role, its membership must be made up of countries with a commitment and proven track record of protecting human rights.

Ms Craik said, “Sadly, Australia currently does not meet this standard.

“With the upcoming Federal election, this must become a central issue. The election is an important time for both sides of politics to show moral leadership, honour our legacy of compassion and not pander to the politics of fear and racism. The Australian public must show xenophobic and racist policies will not win their votes. We call on Australians to speak to their local members and candidates about the human rights abuses of asylum seekers in Australia. Let’s stand with refugees, in accordance with this year’s theme.

“As social workers, we will continue to advocate against human rights violations and look forward to the day when the Australian Government stops exploiting the public’s fear, misconceptions and prejudices against asylum seekers and refugees for political gain, and becomes a global leader for human rights.”


Christine Craik is available for interview.

Media contact
Angela Yin
Communications Lead
P 03 9320 1005 M 0413 532 954

AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers