Green Immigration spokesperson Keith Locke has backed Helen Clark’s offer to take some of the asylum seekers stranded on the ship Tampa off Christmas Island.
“It will show the world that we are a compassionate people. We can easily accommodate some of the refugees,” said Mr Locke.
As Australia, Norway and Indonesia continued to wrangle about their obligations towards the asylum-seekers, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said Australia bore the primary responsibility.
“The Greens are appalled at John Howard’s heartless rejection of the refugees.
“The refugees have suffered great hardship, both in Taliban-run Afghanistan and in their journey over land and sea seeking a better life,” said Mr Locke.
“Australia must abide by its international duty let the refugees come ashore at Christmas Island for processing.
“If we take some of the Afghans we should treat them with respect. People who are willing to sacrifice so much to obtain freedom generally make good citizens,” he said.
“I strongly take issue with Jenny Shipley’s demand that if the refugees get here they should be detained under the 1999 emergency legislation for boat people.
“We should not imitate Australia which holds thousands of asylum seekers in remote detention centres, often for years. That shameful process has rightly drawn international condemnation,” Mr Locke said.
“We’ve been moving away from detaining asylum seekers. Experience shows refugees welcome the support they get while they are being processed, and that they are cooperative with the Immigration Service.
“I have a private members bill in the parliamentary ballot, the Refugee Claimants (Rights Protection) Bill, one of whose provisions is to stop the detention of asylum seekers, unless they can be shown to be a criminals or terrorists,” said Mr Locke.