Asylum seekers and policy in sinking condition

I have had quite firm views on asylum seekers: on this blog and earlier. Trouble is in recent times the whole issue has got worse and worse. And I have a reservation of my own that has been growing along with that: The Greens and others who advocate much more “humane” solutions – as have I – really are caught by the FACT of drowning people. Even if we accepted all boats and abolished Christmas Island and the dodgy excision of bits of Australia for immigration purposes, wouldn’t the very fact of boats still have led to those drownings? Something really does need to be done to make the boat journeys either undesirable or unnecessary – which is why I have even been prepared to consider Clive Palmer’s idea: fly them all here from Indonesia and process them here, sending back any who turn out not to be refugees by the fist available  plane.

Mr Palmer said Australians collectively bore the responsibility of asylum seekers drowning at sea.

"We can eliminate the people smugglers. We can eliminate the problem. We can eliminate the drownings. We can treat people as human beings."

Mr Palmer said he did not approve of the offshore processing supported by both major parties.

"What sort of a nation are we if we don’t follow our international responsibilities and allow people to come here safely?" he said.

Quite a bit was well encapsulated in last Monday’s QandA – with both Malcolm Turnbull and Chris Bowen looking uncomfortable arguing their respective party’s positions – but both at least being rather more than glove puppets too. However, no-one could top Nahji Chu:

JOHN WHITING: I have a question for Ms Chu. I don’t know all the details of your journey to Australia but assuming that you were processed by the former Australian Government procedures, I wonder how you’d feel if your admittance to Australia had either be delayed or denied because refugees coming by boat, having paid people smugglers, had effectively gazumped you?
NAHJI CHU: Well, you know, I just have to say that I came by any means possible, whether that was legal or illegal. My life was in danger.
VIRGINIA TRIOLI: You were three and a half years in a camp.
NAHJI CHU: And I came at the age of 9. I arrived – I left at the age of 5. I arrived at the age of 9 and lived three and a half years in a camp.
VIRGINIA TRIOLI: And they were pretty tough times, I imagine?
NAHJI CHU: They’re tough times. I mean, you know, I went through the correct procedures but, I mean, there’s no orderly queue in a camp. There is no such thing as order in a refugee camp. It is…
VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Would you have considered or your parents have considered paying people smugglers to get over here?
NAHJI CHU: We’d do anything possible to have a life.
MALCOLM TURNBULL: Of course they would.
NAHJI CHU: A safe life.
VIRGINIA TRIOLI: So such people who make their way here are not gazumpers, as our questioner asks?

NAHJI CHU: They’re not gazumpers. I mean, look, if you gave them – look, you know, it’s a stupid really is a stupid debate that just keeps going around and round in circles. We’ve had this same debate for ten years. We’ll have this same debate for another ten years. There is no solution other than let them in. Pacific Solution is not a solution, it’s hypocrisy. Malaysia Solution is not a solution. It’s, you know, let’s not acknowledge that we have a solution. Let’s process them here, there, everywhere. It doesn’t matter where we process them. The fact is we need to process them in Australia. You know, like, whilst I was studying up on my notes today, I just couldn’t help but see that footage that someone emailed me. It was the public execution of the 22 year old, Najiba and the headline news was all around the world, you know, “It’s inhumane and it’s un-Islamic.” For me, to turn back the boats is inhumane and un-Australian as much as that was inhumane and un-Islamic. Turning back the boats, you know, four words, "Turn back the boats", they appeal to our dark side. They appeal to the side of us that says, no. They appeal to the side of us that look at outsiders as a threat. It does not look it does not even, you know, make Australia look like a nation that celebrates what it is: a nation of immigrants and refugees. The problem we have at the moment with refugees is not really a large problem. I think, you know, according to UNHCR figures, we actually take 3% of the world’s refugees, as opposed to Canada that takes 31%.

NAHJI CHU: No, Europe takes 69% and the United States that takes 15%. Now, since 2007 the rate of change has been minus 9% in Australia, as opposed to Canada which is plus 9%.
VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Let me go to Thierry De Duve because I’ve been hearing him making noises here on my right and clearly observing it as an outsider. What do you think of this? Is what Nahji saying making sense?

And in case you had forgotten why these people exist:

And this story this morning:

A DESPERATE plea for asylum by a doctor trying to escape violence and possible execution in Syria and the Australian embassy’s bureaucratic response to him are among more than 2 million Syrian emails obtained by WikiLeaks.

”Please help me I want … humanitarian asylum or political asylum … the Syrian intelligence would kill me,” reads an email from a Syrian doctor to the Australian embassy in Jordan in May last year.

The Herald has obtained access to the WikiLeaks database of Syrian government, commercial and private emails and has started searching the material for significant information relating to the Syrian conflict, and Australia’s dealings with the troubled Middle East state.

Sent from a Hotmail address, the emails from the Syrian doctor provide a dramatic, personal illustration of the human tragedy of the 16 month conflict in Syria which observers estimate has claimed more than 16,500 lives.

”I am a doctor … in a hospital in Homs in Syria. Syrian intelligence want to kill me,” one email in broken English reads.

The doctor wrote that he had joined in protests against the embattled regime of the President, Bashar Hafez al-Assad.

”I went to the street with all the people who want to topple the Assad regime,” he writes.

After his brother had been killed by government security forces, the doctor went on the run with his wife and family. However he could not get a passport to travel abroad because of the interest of Syrian intelligence.

It took the Australian embassy in Amman, Jordan, a week to reply with a pro forma email that said any application for a refugee and humanitarian visa needed to be lodged directly in Amman.

This prompted a further email from the doctor, again begging for help. ”They kill my brother and burn my house … because I know what they do in hospitals in Syria and I refused to take part in the killing of youth revolution, who do not want to Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria …[They] take all my papers from my house and burn my house …”

The embassy then referred the doctor to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s website for visa application information. He responded that access to the website was blocked in Syria.

After another pro forma email response from the embassy, the doctor restated his circumstance: ”Intelligence Syrian want to kill me because I did not accept to kill any infected in the hospital of the young people who do not want the Assad regime.

”I am a fugitive in a place and my wife in another place and my kids are [away from me] more than 24 days, please help me.” …

Is it any wonder people might risk their lives and spend all they have to get on a boat? (Or plane — but as we know we don’t seem to worry so much about them…)

It has been great for the cartoonists though:



Can anything more capture this nadir in our debate on the issue than Abbott rabbiting on about boat people being “unChristian”? Not to mention the whole “turning boats around” crap. See my January post Populist crud Abbott’s unworkable asylum seeker policy and Captain defied order on boat in yesterday’s Herald.

Meanwhile, I commend thoughtful reading of PDF The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre’s Submission (6 July 2012).