Peace Action Wellington placed lifejackets on statues around Wellington on Sunday 22 May to remember those who have lost their lives while seeking asylum and those who still struggle for it today.
Lifejackets have become a symbol of refugees and the ongoing crisis of over 60 million people forcibly displaced from their home countries by war and ongoing conflicts. People seeking asylum in Europe boarding unsafe boats in lifejackets, risking life and limb, have now had the borders shut around them.
Our closest neighbour Australia has committed to a brutal policy of allowing no refugees arriving by boat to enter Australia. Instead they have created inhumane and illegal offshore detention centres while simultaneously turning back boats in an effort to deter people seeking asylum there.
Here in New Zealand our government has said and done nothing to condemn the actions of those persecuting and turning away refugees at their most vulnerable. The government has not increased the annual refugee quota of 750 since 1987 and illegally detains some asylum seekers in New Zealand prisons in contradiction of international humanitarian law. This is the same government that passed the Mass Arrivals Bill and floated the possibility of having people seeking asylum taken to Australian detention centres to deter any future arrivals.
The New Zealand government’s silence and inaction makes it complicit in the death and suffering of those who have the right to seek asylum.
We ask the New Zealand government to take an equal part in the international crisis and increase the refugee quota and funding accordingly. We demand the release of asylum seekers currently being held within New Zealand prisons, who should be offered the same services available to quota refugees. Repeal the Mass Arrivals Bill, terminate any subsequent deal with Australia and call for the closing of their detention centres and an end to mandatory detention. Peace Action Wellington also calls for the New Zealand government to cease any involvement in foreign conflicts that ultimately lead to the creation of refugees.