VIC Premier Daniel Andrews Joins #LetThemStay Campaign, Calls For Asylum Seekers To Be Settled In Victoria

"A sense of compassion is not only in the best interests of these children and their families. It is also in the best interests of our status and a fair and decent nation."

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Earlier this week, the High Court upheld the legality of Australia’s controversial offshore detention policy, which meant 267 asylum seekers, including 54 children and 37 babies, would be returned to Nauru. The decision was met with a wave of public backlash: thousands turned up to snap protests held in major cities across Australia; several churches across the country invoked the ancient religious right of sanctuary to protect asylum seekers wishing to shelter from authorities; and various organisations, individuals and media outlets turned up the heat on the prime minister to let them stay.

The government hasn’t deported anyone yet, but recent interviews with Immigration Minister Peter Dutton suggest they don’t intend on bowing to public pressure. Dutton has implied the advice they’ve received from doctors and human rights lawyers is exaggerated or even false, and believes returning the asylum seekers will prevent further deaths at sea. On Thursday, Labor joined forces with the government to vote down a motion proposed by the Greens that would have granted amnesty to the 267 asylum seekers.

Labor’s adoption of the Coalition’s asylum seeker policy isn’t new, but it’s why this morning’s update is a bit of a big deal: Victorian Labor Premier Daniel Andrews has defied his party’s position, and written to Malcolm Turnbull offering to take in the families and children due to go back to Nauru. In the letter, which he posted to Facebook and Twitter this morning, Andrews said he would rather have them settled in Victoria than sent back to “a life of physical and emotional trauma”.

“A sense of compassion is not only in the best interests of these children and their families. It is also in the best interests of our status as a fair and decent nation,” he said. “There are infants among this group who were born in this country. Sending them to Nauru will needlessly expose them to a life of physical and emotional trauma.

“It’s wrong. Medical professionals tell us this. Humanitarian agencies tell us this. Our values tell us this, too. Sending these children and their families to Nauru is not the Australian way.

“While I believe that in such clearly exceptional circumstances as these, you have a clear obligation to support these children and their families, a political argument is no benefit to them. Instead, I write to inform you that Victoria will accept full responsibility for all of these children and their families, including the provision of housing, health, education and welfare services.

“I want these children and their families to call Victoria home.”

I wrote a letter to the Prime Minister today. #LetThemStay

Posted by Daniel Andrews on Friday, 5 February 2016

Andrews’ stance has received an overwhelming amount of praise on social media, with his posts being shared thousands of times.

Andrews isn’t the only Labor minister to deviate from the party’s policy, however. On Wednesday, Labor Deputy Leader Tanya Plibersek called for all children to be released from all offshore and mainland detention centres as quickly as possible. She was the first from her party to respond to a letter from 900 prominent academics calling for the release of children from detention. Plibersek described Australia’s asylum seeker politics since 2001 as “nothing less than toxic”, and said the debate had “lost rationality, compassion and respect”.

Plibersek was among the few Labor MPs who voted against adopting boat turn-backs at Labor’s national conference in July last year. Frontbenchers Anthony Albanese and Penny Wong also voted to ban the policy.

Feature image via Counteract/Facebook.