April 23, 2011

Horse 1178 - Desperate People, Desperate Results

We have seen over the past few days at the Villawood Detention Centre, buildings razed to the ground, riots breaking out, the Federal Opposition pointing the blame at an "inadequate" government policy, and a Government which doesn't seem to have exhibited either a hard or a soft position on how to treat refugees or displaced persons.

There are a whole myriad of problems bound up with this and unravelling them is a difficult task at the best of times, so much so that it is little wonder that governments do not know what to do.

It is possible to end up with a situation where someone from Afghanistan who isn't being persecuted, crosses into Pakistan where they still will not be persecuted, takes passage into Malaysia where there still will not be persecuted, take a short journey to Indonesia where there still will not be persecuted and pay a people trafficker $10,000 plus to get onto a marginally seaworthy boat, and whilst on that boat dump their passports into the sea, when they will  be picked up by the Royal Australian Navy, sent to Christmas Island and then claim that they were persecuted and file for refugee status.

It is also possible for anyone within any of those countries (Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia) in the chain to also claim that they were originally from Afghanistan, whilst on that boat dump their passports into the sea and then be picked up by the Navy and then file for refugee status.

The thing is that  I don't doubt the desperation of any of these people.

If life is so terrible that you happen to think that it's a good idea to pay someone $10,000 plus to get onto a marginally seaworthy boat with the possibility of sinking and drowning on the passage to Australia, then by your actions you have pretty well much demonstrated that life must have been pretty bad to warrant doing this.

Of course this also happens to displace other genuine refugees from other parts of the world.

It should be obvious to anyone who even has a passing interest in the news that there are real humanitarian crises in Libya, the Sudan, Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, people who have otherwise been displaced by flooding in Pakistan, as well as other impending disasters like we have seen in Japan, Sri Lanka, Kashmir and Jammu, Singapore and China, all of which have an equally legitimate and equally desperate series of circumstances to claim refugee and/or displaced persons status over.

It's not that I discredit people who have obtained passage through the chain of the above events, but somewhere down the line there is a profitable business in trafficking people through dangerous waters in less than safe conditions.
It is not simply a matter of turning the boats around and sending them home, because if they've come from either Malaysia or Indonesia then they most certainly do not want the problem of dealing with people making undocumented migrations. 
It must be also said that all governments in the chain Afghanistan, Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia, probably view Australia as an easy target to send people on to, and thus Australia becomes the patsy of the region. This means to say that the Government of Australia and by inference the Australian Taxpayer because of reasons of fair play and decency gets taken advantage of. Surely someone must say that this is simply not right.

I have no problem with genuine refugees and displaced persons arriving on our shores and to be honest I would advocate a rise in the numbers which Australia would sign up to accept and accomodate under international treaties. People who have come from the worst of circumstances when they arrive in a new country, generally make a real go of life and contribute greatly to the country and the community, but just because people are desperate does not give people traffickers the right to profit from them and nor should it shift responsibilty onto a country which is quite frankly being taken for a ride.

Basically I think that what amounts to queue jumping offends my sense of fair play and I really don't want to blame desperate people who make those journeys, but people traffickers who do not play fair need to be dealt with somehow... as to how, that is more difficult and I don't know if the answer is all that easy to find.

1 comment:

emily's nephew said...

I'm with you when you say that the traffickers should be dealt with, but we both realise this is easier said than done.

But because that's difficult is no reason for detaining, scapegoating and demonising asylum seekers, who have every right to seek asylum here! (Pace, I'm not saying you were doing that.)

I just don't understand the paranoia against people who seek asylum here through desperate measures, but v little said about the thousands that overstay their visas when they fly here.

It would be better to allow asylum seekers to live in the community while their claims are being processed, and only if they are unsuccessful to detain them pending repatriation. It would also save money and may even indirectly contribute to the economy as the asylum seekers would have to find work to support themselves. And the processing of claims would have to speed up.