Prime Minister Gillard should use her meetings today with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to reach agreement on resettling a thousand more refugees from Indonesia and putting $10 million more into the UNHCR's work in the country, to give refugees the hope they need in order not to get on boats, the Australian Greens said today.
"Here is an expert voice from Indonesia, someone working day in day out to help refugees in the country, agreeing with the Greens that the way to save lives is to care for people and give them safer pathways to a better life," Australian Greens Leader, Senator Christine Milne, said.
"As Febi Yonesta from Jakarta Legal Aid Institute told ABC Radio this morning, the never-ending wait, complete lack of human or social rights and desperation is what is driving people onto boats, regardless of the danger.
"He agrees that resettling more people from Indonesia will reduce the pressure to get on dangerous boats, as will increasing support for refugees in Indonesia through properly resourcing the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.
"Prime Minister Gillard should use her talks with President Yudhoyono today to agree to put $10 million swiftly into the UNHCR in Indonesia, to resettle a thousand refugees from his country immediately, to increase cooperation with Indonesia so we can rescue people before they are in the water, and to urgently address corruption in Indonesian ports that allows more people smuggling to take place.
"I welcome The Prime Minister's commitment of four Hercules transport planes to help the search and rescue effort, but there is much more that could be done straight away to save the lives of refugees that doesn't involve trampling on their rights even more.
"History shows that punishing desperate people will not save lives. Let's focus on helping people fleeing persecution - that is what will save their lives."