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Jul 24, 2012

Australia's refugee fiasco

Apparently our asylum seekers know whose boss:

They observe that many asylum-seekers appear well clothed and organised. Apparently a sailor recently was admonished by an asylum-seeker who wanted more care taken with his bag because it contained a laptop. Another sailor lamented; "Last I checked, I was not a baggage handler at the airport, but a sailor in the Royal Australian Navy.” – The Australian.

The latest tendency of people smugglers to leave the Indonesian coastline and ring up the Australian rescue services to be picked up by the Navy has spawned the image on the left.

Since the Labor government of Kevin Rudd abandoned the ‘Pacific Solution’ of the Howard era, boat arrivals have been steadily accelerating. At the end of the Howard government, boat arrivals had virtually stopped while the humanitarian intake was still going on. Essentially there was no incentive for people to jump the queue and end up in detention centers rather than wait for standard processing.

Now it has reached the point where those wishing to enter legally have little chance of doing so as the current rate of boat arrivals is set to exceed our entire refugee intake for the year. Today’s total was 150, and the total for the month so far is 1,200:
His hopes, and those of a generation of displaced people in camps around the world, are being crushed by a gross distortion in Australia's humanitarian program, caused by the flood of asylum-seeker boats. People such as Mr Omar in Kenya's giant Dadaab camp do not have the money or access to people-smugglers and their boats. He has no choice but to apply through proper channels for the fast-shrinking number of humanitarian places being offered to those who do not arrive in Australia by boat. …

… This is a dark side of the asylum-seeker debate that is frequently ignored by proponents of liberal onshore processing of boat arrivals. The world's poorest and most helpless asylum-seekers are being increasingly displaced by those who, while also desperate, at least have the financial means to self-select and pay people-smugglers for a passage to Australia.

Since 1996 Australia has capped its total humanitarian intake at about 13,000 by linking its onshore intake, which includes asylum-seeker boat arrivals, with its offshore intake, which includes both the refugee and special humanitarian category. So a rise in the onshore category (mostly boat arrivals) leads directly to a reduction in the offshore category in order to stay under the government's self-imposed 13,700 humanitarian cap.
The government has attempted to bring in its own version of the Pacific Solution, only to avoid making it the same as the Howard one which it stigmatized; it wants to do the processing in Malaysia, rather than Nauru. The Opposition would be happy to oblige but for the fact that Malaysia has not signed the refugee convention and some rather disturbing stories have emerged on the treatment of these people over there.

Gillard is effectively in coalition with the Greens who are for open slather and will not agree to any proposal for offshore processing. All she would have to do would be to drop her insistence on Malaysia to have an agreement in place which would work and the problem would be solved.

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