The Greek community is divided in its response to the Gillard government’s policy shift on asylum seekers.
Last week Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the decision to allow hundreds of asylum seekers to live in the community while their applications are being processed.
“AN EXTREMELY POSITIVE STEP”
Director of the Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture Paris Aristotle, said the shift was: “an extremely positive step.”
Aristotle chairs the Council for Immigration Services and Status Resolution, who advised the government on their decision. He welcomed the move as: “a really positive and sensible strategy.”
He said the strategy made sense from a humanitarian point of view, a processing point of view and in terms of the integrity of the system overall.
“Because if they’re found to be refugees, then they’re going to be able to move into society healthy, and able to function and become part of society more easily than what happens in detention centers,” he claimed.
“And if they’re not found to be refugees, then all the evidence has shown us that in the end it’s much easier for people to be returned out of a community based setting than detention settings.” Aristotle added.
And he said while it wasn’t his primary concern, housing asylum seekers in the community is dramatically cheaper than housing them in detention centers.
“A BAND-AID SOLUTION”
But the CEO of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) Kon Karapanagiotidis, said the policy was: “disappointing.”
“Whilst it’s a step in the right direction, releasing hundreds of families and children from detention, it’s a band-aid response, and it falls way short of what’s actually needed,” he said.
Karapanagiotidis, who has worked with asylum seekers for the past nine years, said the policy failed to protect children.
“What needed to actually happen was for it to be made illegal for children to be kept in detention and this government failed to do that,” he said.
“When you lock people up who are innocent, traumatised and vulnerable, and you strip them of their basic right, you damage people.”
He said the move was prompted by three factors – none of them being a desire to protect children.
“One, it’s politically becoming unsustainable for them it’s embarrassing them; two, there was a risk the coalition would cross the floor and support the Greens on legislating kids in detention; and three, they know that boats are going to keep coming, and they need to empty out the detention centers to allow for people to keep coming.”
And he encouraged the Greek Australian community to remember their own history when considering the issue.
“They forget that under this current government or the last one, they wouldn’t have been allowed into this country… They wouldn’t have seen as good enough, smart enough, necessary enough.”
(source: neos kosmos)