Refugee advocates are calling for the asylum seeker issue to be a priority at the G20 Summit this weekend.
The call comes after human rights activists unveiled a proposal to shift asylum seeker processing to Tasmania as a a more humane and cost effective alternative to offshore detention centres.
During the G20 Summit, Australia plans to discuss strategies to stimulate economic growth through increasing investments, trade barrier reductions and rises in employment and participation, but asylum seekers are not a priority.
Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO Michael Bailey said asylum seekers are an international responsibility and should be discussed at the G20.
“Asylum seekers (have already been) housed at a local community in Hobart called Brighton and there was a distinct economic advantage for that community,” Mr Bailey said.
He said the Brighton community was initially resistant to the idea of housing asylum seekers in their region, but they soon came around..
“People started to become great advocates, not just because of the economic benefit but also the cultural benefits which led to a big push to get asylum seekers out of detention and into the community,” he said.
The Tasmanian plan developed by local leaders and human rights activists this week could also help reduce the $5 billion spent annually on off-shore housing for asylum seekers.
Asylum Seeker Resource Centre Director of Advocacy Serina McDuff said the Australian government is denying responsibility for the management of sub-standard offshore detention centres during G20.
“At a time when we are hosting the G20 and painting ourselves as a major international player on the world stage, behind the scenes, we are busily abrogating our international responsibilities to asylum seekers,” Ms McDuff said.
She said the government needs to provide an assurance to refugees that children and their families will be settled in Australia.
“The Government must take urgent steps to shut down its sub-human offshore detention facilities and begin to process people’s applications for protection, as it is obliged to do under Australian law,” Ms McDuff said.
TCCI CEO Michael Bailey said asylum seekers may also hold the key to bolstering Tasmania’s declining population, which is expected to flat-line in the next 10 years.
“A great way to grow the economy is to grow the population, and a great way to do that is through international migrants,” Mr Bailey said.
“As a country we should fulfill our obligations as an international player to provide asylum to people in desperate need and economically there is a very strong argument for detainees to be housed in Tasmania.”