The Refugee Council of Australia has urged the public to remember that entering another country to seek protection from persecution, without a pre-issued visa, is sanctioned under both Australian and international law.
The Council's comments come after a boat carrying Afghan asylum-seekers exploded off Ashmore Reef last week, with five killed. Three of the people drowned, while two bodies have yet to be recovered.
Refugee Council President John Gibson said there had been an increase in people attempting to enter the country as a result of deteriorating situations in a number of countries, resulting in greater numbers of people being displaced and attempting to flee persecution.
"There is nothing 'illegal' about the process of seeking protection from persecution," said Gibson. "And, as a mature democratic nation which has signed the Refugee Convention, we need to treat asylum-seekers and handle their claims in a manner which is consistent with the 'fair go' ethos of which we are rightly proud."
Figures recently released by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees indicate that there has been a 12 per cent global increase over the last year in the number of asylum-seekers lodging protection claims in industrialised countries.
However, the number of asylum seekers arriving in Australia has been small by international measures, falling outside the top 10 receiving countries.
The Council urged the Opposition to abandon its call for a return to the Temporary Protection Visa (TPV).
Refugee Council President John Gibson said the TPV had tarnished Australia's human rights record.
"The message which we need to send is that Australia is a moral and responsible country. That we are committed to honouring our humanitarian obligations while combating criminal acts, and that we are engaging collaboratively with our neighbours and the UN in the development and implementation of solutions to complex global and regional problems," he said.
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