The Federal Government today announced it had reached an agreement with the United States to resettle refugees on Manus Island and Nauru in the US. This is incredibly welcome news. The indefinite detention of refugees drove them to despair and hopelessness. Now they have the prospect of starting afresh in the United States.
We will now have a hiatus during which we just might be able to have a fruitful dialogue about a better refugee policy. We will soon have no children in detention, very few adults in detention, and no refugees detained on Manus or Nauru. This should afford us the opportunity to reconsider refugee policy in an environment where the political constraints on government and opposition have been loosened and the moral outrage of people like me ratcheted down.
We should address three things:
- An increased refugee intake;
- A multi-country approach for accepting refugees in our region;
- An approach for resetting refugees from outside our region.
It may only be a short window of opportunity, for anyone who arrives from now on will be subject to the same policies as in the past and we will be thrown back into the same cycle of protest and resistance that has characterised the debate to date. Let’s seize this opportunity with both hands.