Campaign to stop Australian airlines deporting refugees

Refugee_children_in_concentration_camp

Six American airlines stood up to Trump and refused to transport children separated from their families at US borders.1,2 In Australia, where government separates families all the time, national airlines refuse to do the same.

(Picture: Refugee children in an Australian offshore camp.)
Last month six major American airlines stood up to the Trump Administration and refused to transport children who had been separated from their families at US borders.1,2
But in Australia, where our government separates families all the time within its immigration regime, our national airlines refuse to do the same. And today, it's making headlines across the country.3

While Trump was tearing families apart at US borders, Peter Dutton ripped a Tamil asylum seeker away from his wife and Australian baby daughter, dragged him onto a plane and sent him back to Sri Lanka. On arrival, he was detained by security forces condemned by the UN Special Rapporteur for the "arbitrary arrest and detention" of minority communities and the "endemic and routine" use of torture.4 And as Guardian journalist Ben Doherty lamented on the day of this man's deportation, family separation is "routine" in our immigration system.5

But for every deportation to danger that Peter Dutton intends to do, he needs a plane. And that's where our big airlines come in – if Qantas and Virgin stand up to Dutton, like American airlines stood up to Trump – we deal a real blow to the system of deportations and family separation that Dutton has enshrined.

But the airlines won't do it on their own. We know that for corporations to do the right thing, they need to feel the heat from their customers. If thousands of us come together and call on them to rule out deportations to danger, we can force them to act.

Can you add your name to the petition calling on Australian airlines to rule out engaging in Dutton's human rights abuses?

For years now, reports of "death, disappearance, imprisonment and torture, of fear-filled lives spent in hiding, privation and despair" have filtered back to Australia about asylum seekers we wilfully deported to danger.6

Under Peter Dutton, this process has accelerated, with lawyers and journalists outlining how Dutton has stripped asylum seekers of rights,7 barred their access to independent judicial review,8 shoved them back into the hands of dictators and torturers and torn their families apart.9

But Dutton needs planes, so he needs our airlines to be complicit in his abuse of asylum seekers. Airlines like Qantas and Virgin aren't arms of government – they're corporations. So we can hit them where it hurts – their bottom line.

GetUp members have been part of game-changing corporate campaigns to save the Reef and protect renewable energy, and we know that in the modern economy, no corporation operates in a vacuum – and that gives us power.

In 2016, we gave Transfield, the company which ran the offshore detention centres an ultimatum: clean up your act, or we're pulling our financial and public support. Sure enough, shareholders dumped their shares and customers turned down contracts. After 18 months, we forced Transfield to end their business in abuse and shut down the entire Manus Island detention camp in November 2017. Now we're joining together with the Australian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR) to turn our attention to Qantas and Virgin as they face AGMs over the coming months.

At times it can seem that the Australian Government's horrific treatment of people fleeing some of the world's most violent regimes is unstoppable. It's a savage system, but its architects and profiteers forgot one thing: the strength of the Australian public, standing united as shareholders and consumers against corporations profiting from human suffering.

Together, we can push Qantas and Virgin to follow the lead of airlines in the United States, and begin to break the system that lets Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton get away with abuse. Will you join us?

In determination,

Shen and Renaire for the GetUp team

References:
[1] 'Airlines ask the government not to fly separated children on their planes', CNN, 20 June 2018.
[2] 'All the US airlines that refused to fly separated immigrant children—and the ones that did not', Quartz, 22 June 2018.
[3] 'Qantas, Virgin targeted over role in refugee repatriation', The Guardian, 9 August 2018.
[4] 'UN condemns Australia's forced return of asylum seeker to Sri Lanka', The Guardian, 22 December 2017.
[5] 'Australia deports Tamil asylum seeker, separating him from baby daughter', The Guardian, 17 July 2018.
[6]'Deported to Danger: Investigation into the fate of deported people', Edmund Rice Centre, from 2003 onwards.
[7] 'Law changes could see legitimate refugees sent back, Senate inquiry told, The Guardian, 14 November 2014.
[8] Law changes could see legitimate refugees sent back, Senate inquiry told, The Guardian, 14 November 2014.
[9] 'Australia deports Tamil asylum seeker, separating him from baby daughter', The Guardian, 17 July 2018.

International authorities have found time and time again that Australia's treatment of people seeking asylum, including their processing, detention and deportation, falls foul of international law.1

And by agreeing to forcibly deport, remove or transfer refugees and asylum seekers, airlines like Qantas may be complicit in serious human rights abuses.

Under the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, Qantas have a responsibility to respect human rights. And that means taking steps to avoid participating in potential human rights abuses – and right now, they aren't.

And with American airline after airline announcing they will end involuntary deportations on their networks, Qantas' silence is deafening. But Qantas shareholders have the chance to turn the tables right now – and force the business to take a stand. If you own Qantas shares or know someone who does - can you add your name and contact details here to join the group of shareholders telling Qantas to take a stand?

References: [1]'Deported to Danger: Investigation into the fate of deported people', Edmund Rice Centre, from 2003 onwards

Add your name and contact details here to join the group of shareholders telling Qantas to take a stand against forced removals, deportations and transfers ahead of the Annual General Meeting in October.


GetUp is an independent, not-for-profit community campaigning group. We use new technology to empower Australians to have their say on important national issues. We receive no political party or government funding, and every campaign we run is entirely supported by voluntary donations.
Our team acknowledges that we meet and work on the land of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. We wish to pay respect to their Elders - past, present and future - and acknowledge the important role all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to play within Australia and the GetUp community.
Authorised by Paul Oosting, Level 14, 338 Pitt Street, Sydney NSW 2000.

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