Gov’t should express concern over asylum seekers

New Zealand should express concern over the Australian Government’s harsh and intransigent response to hunger striking asylum seekers, Green Party Foreign Affairs spokesperson Keith Locke said today.

“As a good neighbour, we should also offer support for a more constructive and humane solution to the Australian asylum seeker crisis which is worsening by the day,” he said.

“Prime Minister Helen Clark successfully stepped in and helped find a way to end the Tampa drama by taking 130 asylum seekers, so that they did not have to suffer further,” he said.

“Her actions in that case were commendable. The latest news from Australia is that the asylum seekers in detention centres are desperate and suffering; in some cases almost as badly off as those on the Tampa.”

Mr Locke said news breaking over the weekend of ongoing hunger strikes at four of the five detention centres, 15 children making a suicide pact, and attempts at self-mutilation showed how desperate the situation was.

“The attempts to keep media at a distance shows that the Australian Government is feeling very uncomfortable with international publicity and unease about what is going on in these centres.

“This is the perfect time for our Government to approach them, and offer constructive assistance.”

Mr Locke said the New Zealand Greens backed calls from the Australian Green Party to close the Woomera Detention Centre.

“Locking asylum seekers up for long periods of time in harsh conditions is a violation of international conventions on the treatment of refugees, and shows a lack of compassion and basic humanity,” he said.