Parkville Station

Academics for Refugees call for national summit on refugees

Academics for Refugees has launched a policy paper and an open letter to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, demanding “that Australia end its harmful policies of offshore processing, boat turnbacks and the mandatory detention of people seeking asylum”.

Called A Just and Humane Approach for Refugees, one of the key recommendations of the policy paper is for the government to convene a “national policy summit” that would bring together “asylum seekers, refugees and former refugees; migrant and refugee advocates; policy experts; community representatives; and politicians from all parties”.

University of Melbourne academics Professor Philomena Murray and Sara Dehm, who are both convenors of the Academics for Refugees Steering Group, told Parkville Station that they hoped such a summit would mark a “new national consensus” on how Australia’s refugee policy should be constructed.
They said the open letter signified “a strong consensus in academia that the current refugee régime is harmful, and that there are alternatives that the government needs to take seriously”.

Although the government has not yet responded to the letter, Murray and Dehm insist that actions such as their open letter and other campaigns by similar groups were necessary in order to demand a more humane policy and to “change the narrative” toward people fleeing persecution, and pointed out that the group’s action comes at a time at a time where there is “a lot of attention on, in particular, the harmful nature of offshore processing”.

As of publication, the open letter has 2246 signatures, including 244 from the University of Melbourne.

On campus, the University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) has recently called on the University to end its relationship with Wilson Security, which provides security services to the detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru, as well as the University’s campus. (Since then, Wilson Security announced it will not renew its Nauru and Manus Island contracts). The topic of Australia’s asylum seeker policy also received some coverage in last week’s student elections, particularly from the Socialist-Alternative–aligned Left Focus ticket.

More information is available at the Academics for Refugees website,

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