Academics across Australia Call for National Summit on a Just and Humane Approach for Refugees

asylum seekers







Over 1,810 academics from universities across Australia have signed an  Open  Letter to Prime MinisterMalcolm Turnbull and to all Members of Parliament  calling for  a just and humane approach for refugees. This includes distinguished experts in refugee law, policy, health and politics.

The Open Letter calls on the Australian government to end its harmful policies of offshore processing, boat turnbacks and the mandatory detention of people seeking asylum. It sets out detailed  practical and sound measures  that Australia should adopt as an  alternative policy  that would provide people seeking asylum with access to safety and protection. These measures include:

On a national level:

  • closing immigration detention centres and ending mandatory detention;
  • initiating comprehensive law reform to ensure that Australia upholds its international obligations;
  • promoting a decent livelihood and thriving communities for people seeking asylum or people who have been granted Australia’s protection; and
  • fostering positive and empathetic narratives about people seeking asylum.

On a regional and international level:

  • working with states in the Asia Pacific region to create a regional framework based on equity, capacity and responsibility; and
  • contributing towards making the international system more sustainable, equitable and humane.

Significantly, the Open Letter calls on the Australian government to convene a  National Policy Summit. The Summit will provide a key political moment for moving beyond the current damaging paradigm of deterrence in Australian refugee politics. The Summit should bring together asylum seekers, refugees and former refugees; migrant and refugee advocates; policy experts; community representatives; and politicians from all parties. It will provide a space for listening to the voices and expertise of those most affected by the Australia’s policies to date ”“ asylum seeker and refugees ”“ in order to create a new consensus for a just and humane approach.

Professor Louise Newman AM, an expert on the impact of immigration detention on child asylum seekers at the University of Melbourne, said that “There is an urgent need for a national conversation to endorse a new way for treating people seeking asylum in Australia. We need comprehensive law reform. For example, there is a need to discuss the Border Force Act with respect to duty of care and ethical obligations of doctors and clinicians. We also must act urgently to protect women and children from sexual assault and harm.”

Another expert on the mandatory detention of asylum seekers, Professor Linda Briskman, Swinburne University, said that “Presenting practical humane measures, the paper seeks to overcome policies and practices that cause serious harm to both asylum seekers and the reputation of Australia. Years of rigorous research by contributors from a range of academic disciplines informs the recommendations.”

The Open Letter was written in support of a set of recommendations from a Policy Paper written by several scholars across various disciplines from Australian universities and coordinated by a research network, Academics for Refugees.

The Open Letter with the list of signatories and Policy Paper are attached and available at

The list of signatories will continue to be updated in the coming weeks.

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