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Detention Centre Riots
March 20, 2011 4:34 PM   Subscribe


 
Of all the countries, of all the populations, Australia is mistreating convicts?

That's sad. Those who refuse to learn from history yadda yadda.
posted by kafziel at 4:36 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


yeah, outsider here, don't know the situation, sure there are good reasons, shouldn't support rioters, etc... but everything I've heard about the treatment of detainees is utterly horrific and every election there's a new panic about another round of 'boat people'.

as if a country with one of the lowest population densities on Earth can't support a few of the world's tired, huddled masses yearning to be free
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:38 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Kafziel, that they're not convicts is rather the point of the badness of the Christmas Island centre (and other centres). The people there are asylum seekers, they've not been arrested or charged with any offences, and they're in purely administrative indefinite detention.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 4:39 PM on March 20, 2011 [11 favorites]


they've not been arrested or charged with any offences, and they're in purely administrative indefinite detention.

But they are brown people, and if lots of them come to Australia, then Australia will stop being white and start being brown.

Let's not pretend that this is about anything else.
posted by Avenger at 4:47 PM on March 20, 2011 [15 favorites]


Could we send the Gitmo gang there? It would really help us out AUS. Come on it's like 40 more guys, you've already got so many, you'll hardly notice.
posted by humanfont at 4:48 PM on March 20, 2011


Bet they can't get Mortal Kombat either.
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:51 PM on March 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


There was a friend of mine on murder
And the judge's gavel fell
Jury found him guilty
Gave him sixteen years in hell
posted by bwg at 5:05 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


everything I've heard about the treatment of detainees is utterly horrific

Sorry - by 'treatment' do you mean their living conditions, or the administrative arrangements for refugees generally? Could you elaborate on what you mean by 'utterly horrific'? Because Treblinka was 'utterly horrific', and casting Christmas Island or a hotel in Darwin in the same light is pretty hysterical.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:07 PM on March 20, 2011


Sorry - by 'treatment' do you mean their living conditions, or the administrative arrangements for refugees generally?

both
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:11 PM on March 20, 2011


Because Treblinka was 'utterly horrific', and casting Christmas Island or a hotel in Darwin in the same light is pretty hysterical.

pyramid termite's corollary to godwin's law - if you have to invoke nazis to make something look better, you've lost
posted by pyramid termite at 5:13 PM on March 20, 2011 [11 favorites]


Here's a primer on the nature of the detention of asylum seekers under current Australian law. The key words are:
Under the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) (the Migration Act), asylum seekers who arrive on the Australian mainland without a valid visa must be held in immigration detention until they are granted a visa or removed from Australia...
Now, because Australia is a signatory (for now) to the Refugees Convention, Immigration can't simply deport people back to countries which might persecute them. The previous conservative Federal Government went to extreme lengths to solve the political problem and discourage boat crossings, and though the current Labor Government has ended the most egregious parts of that system, the basic blocks (mandatory detention, the detention of children, the excision zone where asylum seekers have limited recourse to Australian migration law, Ministerial discretion, etc.) remain.

In short, the Australian electorate has a number of times demonstrated its unwillingness to accept people seeking asylum in the community while their status as refugees is established (IMO, for the reasons Avenger has described). They're stuck in a feedback loop of unwantedness.

An aside: there is some point to discouraging boat crossings. The strait between Indonesia and Ashmore Reef is extremely dangerous for boats which are overloaded and/or unseaworthy. It's simply a question of whether the tool for that discouragement should be the treatment of the asylum seekers themselves.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 5:15 PM on March 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Australia is #234 in the world for population density. Sounds like they could use some immigrants.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 5:26 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


And Vatican City is 6th. Sounds like they could use less people.
posted by tumid dahlia at 5:31 PM on March 20, 2011


FEWER
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 5:33 PM on March 20, 2011 [12 favorites]


Australia is #234 in the world for population density. Sounds like they could use some immigrants.

I keep saying that but people insist that Australia is too crowded. The ideal is either a rural property or a big house in the suburbs with a backyard.

All that aside no civilized country should treat people the way Australia teats refugees.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:39 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


There was a pretty simple ad campaign running at one time which just said it's not illegal to be a refugee. Yet the media and the politicians love to drum on about the threat of illegal refugees.

It's one of those political things that for some reason become "the most important issue" but the average person doesn't actually seem to worried about. So whenever it's raise I tend to think what are the pollies trying to quietly slide in by getting everyone into a lather about something else?
posted by Raunchy 60s Humour at 5:43 PM on March 20, 2011


I don't know what to say about this, because I feel nothing will ever change. Convincing Australians to treat refugees with some respect is like convincing Americans to put down their guns. The only thing that might have any kind of impact is greater international pressure.
posted by Jimbob at 5:43 PM on March 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


both

If decent chow, plenty of outdoor space, quality medical care and a room about on par with many three star hotels I've stayed in throughout rural Australia is 'utterly horrific', what adjectives have you reserved for something truly heinous, like a two and a half star hotel?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:43 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sorry - by 'treatment' do you mean their living conditions, or the administrative arrangements for refugees generally? Could you elaborate on what you mean by 'utterly horrific'? Because Treblinka was 'utterly horrific', and casting Christmas Island or a hotel in Darwin in the same light is pretty hysterical.
You realize that doesn't make much sense right. Treblinka was also "awful" and "bad", yet things are described with those words all the time. Nor does it mean people are comparing Rebbecca Black to Hitler because there is some overlap in the set of words used.

Secondly the idea that the government should be free to treat people as badly as they want so long as they don't reach the Hitler level before they receive any criticism is obviously wrong as well.
posted by delmoi at 5:44 PM on March 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


How many years ago was it that E.O. Wilson, in an afterward to his book Consilience, stated that the two big issues many nations would face would be lack of drinkable water and massive migrations of people seeking to leave areas that could not sustain life properly to get to places that might be able to provide for them, and that there would be increasingly troubles as such arrivals tried to settle in lands they had tried to settle in? I think it must be about 15-20 years ago that the book came out.
posted by Postroad at 5:45 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


If decent chow, plenty of outdoor space, quality medical care and a room about on par with many three star hotels I've stayed in throughout rural Australia is 'utterly horrific', what adjectives have you reserved for something truly heinous, like a two and a half star hotel?
Because obviously imprisoning children is just like staying at a bad hotel!
posted by delmoi at 5:46 PM on March 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh and by "the average person doesn't seem to worried about" I don't mean we don't care, it's just that we are all immigrants, aside from the aboriginal and T.I. folks, or sons of immigrants, so I think the average person doesn't hold it against a person that they've come here from somewhere else to find a better life. The only difference is the number of generations spent here.
posted by Raunchy 60s Humour at 5:47 PM on March 20, 2011


It has everything to do with the fact that they're brown. No one is crying out against the vast number of British and New Zeland tourists that overstay their visas.
posted by liquorice at 5:49 PM on March 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Because obviously imprisoning children is just like staying at a bad hotel!

I explicitly asked whether we were talking about the administrative arrangements - separating families, detaining children, the length and trasparency of the process and so on - or the living conditions. I was answered with 'both', and I'm talking about the latter. Try to keep up.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:50 PM on March 20, 2011


here's a tidy article on the theme.
posted by Raunchy 60s Humour at 5:50 PM on March 20, 2011


Treblinka was also "awful" and "bad", yet things are described with those words all the time.

Greek wine is awful. If somebody was using those words to describe state-endorsed murder of civilians en masse, I'd say they needed to get some perspective too.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:53 PM on March 20, 2011


OK, deal me into this one, I've got not much to do this afternoon.
decent chow, plenty of outdoor space, quality medical care and a room about on par with many three star hotels I've stayed in throughout rural Australia
Agreed, obiwanwasabi, the conditions for asylum seekers at the CI detention centre and (these days) at motels in the community *sound* preferable to a lot of other places you could be in Australia—thinking in particular of remand centres for people refused bail in criminal courts, prison, or indeed, most temporary housing for homeless people. Better than Villawood, certainly. If the CI detention centre is anything like it's described, and since it's been built in the last ten years, the housing conditions themselves are almost certainly better than the majority of the Sydney and Melbourne private rental market.

This wasn't the case when asylum seekers were being housed at Nauru, Woomera, and Baxter. I've got an Australian passport and what happened to Cornelia Rau gives me the chills.

The horror comes in when you add indefinite detention, the lack of any certainty about administrative process, lack of any recreation or opportunity to work. And prison guards employed by private security companies.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 5:57 PM on March 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


pyramid termite: “pyramid termite's corollary to godwin's law - if you have to invoke nazis to make something look better, you've lost”

Quoted for extremely salient truth.
posted by koeselitz at 5:58 PM on March 20, 2011




Greek wine is awful
I will happily accept and process rejected applicants from your Retsina Excision Zone.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 6:20 PM on March 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


So far we've had 'omgodwin, 'everything I've read' and 'no true Scotsman'. Really solid analysis of these complex issues, guys. Big pat on the back. You've won me over. Living conditions on Christmas Island are 'utterly horrifying', because...well, everybody knows, and you said Hitler, or something.

This wasn't the case when asylum seekers were being housed at Nauru, Woomera, and Baxter. I've got an Australian passport and what happened to Cornelia Rau gives me the chills.

The post was about CI, and CI is the only facility I'm talking about today. And try not to mention the white woman, it undercuts the 'it's all about brown people' crowd.

Quoted for extremely salient truth.

Quote this: if you use words like 'utterly horrifying' to describe things that are much less horrifying than things that were actually utterly horrifying, those words lose their meaning, and you lose your credibility as an objective analyst.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 6:26 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Quote this: if you use words like 'utterly horrifying' to describe things that are much less horrifying than things that were actually utterly horrifying, those words lose their meaning, and you lose your credibility as an objective analyst.

I'm horrified by the conditions at Christmas Island, especially IN THE CONTEXT of Australia - a country that usually treats its citizens and it's normal prisoners humanely. They were rioting because of those conditions, and this wasn't the first time. There have been hunger strikes, etc.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:30 PM on March 20, 2011


OK, here, with pictures, is the CI detention centre when HREOC visited it last October. I'll revise my opinion of it down drastically.

It's this sentence though that I find genuinely terrifying:
The Commission is concerned about the limited capacity of the Case Manager and the Independent Observers to meet the needs of such a high number of unaccompanied minors. At the time of the Commission’s visit there was one Case Manager and there were two Independent Observers for 152 unaccompanied minors
If the Immigration Minister were a State minister for child protection or out of home care, they'd be called upon to resign.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 6:34 PM on March 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Well obiwanwasabi, this is secondhand, and unverifiable, but a good friend of mine worked at the christmas island detention centre for a few months last year, and he thought the conditions were "appalling" and "inhumane". And there are reports of large numbers of detainees requiring psychological counselling.

****

kafziel, talking about Australians as convicts is about as enlightening as talking about Yanks as slave owners. Beyond irrelevant as to our national identity.
posted by wilful at 6:41 PM on March 20, 2011 [5 favorites]



kafziel, talking about Australians as convicts is about as enlightening as talking about Yanks as slave owners. Beyond irrelevant as to our national identity.


really? i think it sums up Australia's loose, lawless attitude toward life and i've heard people talking about their pride in their convict heritage
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:17 PM on March 20, 2011


Seeing as the Nazis have been brought into things already, why don't we take a look at a Nazi film on conditions in a concentration camp. Not quite 'three star hotel', but not so bad.

Obviously I am not saying that the Australians are doing anything remotely like the Nazis, but I don't trust any government to keep people in camps where they are not free to leave.
posted by knapah at 7:19 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


welcome to the christmas island hilton - our resort is so popular, we've had to put up security fences to keep the rabble out - inside, you will experience the acme of luxurious and spacious accomodations, full of the latest modern style furniture - we will even assist you in choosing your own decor - 5 star facilities are available for your every need

why settle for less in sydney or brisbane when a long vacation in the lap of luxury is a simple boat trip away?
posted by pyramid termite at 7:27 PM on March 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


"..outsider here, don't know the situation [..]... but.."

"..i think it sums up Australia's loose, lawless attitude toward life.."


Lovecraft In Brooklyn, I've come to regard you as a bit of a dick. I'm sure it's just my failure to read you properly or comprehensively. But there you have it.
posted by peacay at 7:28 PM on March 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


really? i think it sums up Australia's loose, lawless attitude toward life and i've heard people talking about their pride in their convict heritage

In recent months, you've shown yourself to be both fascinated, and slightly confused by Australian culture. May I suggest you add "The Fatal Shore" by Robert Hughes to your reading list immediately. You won't regret it.
posted by Jimbob at 7:28 PM on March 20, 2011 [10 favorites]


Australia is #234 in the world for population density. Sounds like they could use some immigrants.

That statistic is highly misleading.

70% of the country is classified as arid or semi-arid, i.e., less than 500 mm of rain a year. Almost no one lives there. There is a reason for that. It's not very feritle, and it's not very habitable.

About 85% of the population live on the coast, mostly in urban centres.

Sydney is also in the midst of a serious housing shortage.

I'm not defending the current administration's policy on illegal immigration or detention centres. But there are enough good arguments against that policy without resorting to crap like this.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:31 PM on March 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


i think it sums up Australia's loose, lawless attitude toward life

What in the holy hell are you talking about?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:36 PM on March 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


not lawless. more casua, i mean? Convict Creations is a good site on how Aussies see themselves. i dunno.. doesn't seem like the convict thing is fully buried

About 85% of the population live on the coast, mostly in urban centres.

i think expanding urban centres and removing things like height restrictions on buildings is a better solution that putting the few boat people that arrive here in detention camps
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:42 PM on March 20, 2011


To add to the Educating Rita Lovecraft Reading List, here's John Hirst in The Monthly in 2008.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 7:48 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Convict Creations is a good site on how Aussies see themselves. i dunno.. doesn't seem like the convict thing is fully buried

It is for me. And for everyone I know. I can't think of one Australian person who's spoken to me about convict heritage, ever. The only people who ever raise it are the barmy army (and I don't know why, they've got heaps of better stuff to mock, I mean, take Ricky Ponting (please?)) and pig ignorant yanks. My using the analogy of US slave owners isn't accurate, since there are still racial undertones and historic patterns of injustice in that. For Aussies and convicts, it's really old history book stuff. About as relevant as bushrangers.
posted by wilful at 7:50 PM on March 20, 2011


Lovecraft In Brooklyn, do take a look at the reading list I was prescribed (when I asked for it) on Australian politics.
posted by vidur at 7:57 PM on March 20, 2011


Sorry guys,

There's people in my family with browner skin than most of the people in these centres.

I don't care what colour you are, what language you speak, what your religion or lack thereof happens to be - if you lie and cheat (by destroying identity documents, paying smugglers, skipping safe havens along the journey with less tempting social welfare policies than Australia's) to come to Australia I'm deeply suspicious of you.

Look at these riots and fires. Staff had to lock themselves in rooms for fear of their lives. Now, I could perhaps understand this "desperation" if they were currently in an unsafe situation, but they are safe on Christmas island with TV's, comfortable beds, and XBOX's.

All this behaviour is petulance resulting from frustration at not getting their own way. I really don't want people who are going to burn places down when they don't get their own way living in Australia. If that makes me a "racist" in the eyes of some hand-wringing holier-than-thous I believe I can live with it.
posted by nemspyda at 7:57 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Convict Creations is a good site on how Aussies see themselves. i dunno.. doesn't seem like the convict thing is fully buried

Over 20% of the Australian population were born overseas. We don't have a convict heritage.

On preview: what wilful said.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:58 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Nemspyda, it's not a crime to destroy your identity documents or to pay a smuggler. If they were crimes, then they'd be very quickly and easily dealt with indeed, by the courts. In fact, the places in the world where it's most commonly a serious crime to cross a border or destroy one's identification are the authoritarian dictatorships and the countries who persecute their minorities.

Furthermore:
This idea of a 'queue' is further discredited by the fact that the majority of recent unauthorised boat arrivals are from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, countries which do not have an UNHCR presence or an Australian embassy. And they generally transit through countries like Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia, none of which have signed the UN Refugee Convention and so are not obliged to offer protection to refugees...
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 8:18 PM on March 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


i think expanding urban centres and removing things like height restrictions on buildings is a better solution that putting the few boat people that arrive here in detention camps

Lovecraft: My points related to the claims made by you and East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 population density and how Australia could take in more people.

Australia's crappy urban planning issues have almost nothing to do with our crappy illegal immigration policies. Don't conflate them.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:29 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


i think it sums up Australia's loose, lawless attitude toward life and i've heard people talking about their pride in their convict heritage

Yeah...huh? Downloading mp3s and boasting about how many terabyte drives you have filled with them isn't quite the same as stealing bread in order to live. And the only people I've ever heard talking about their "pride" in their "convict heritage" is nobody ever, and if I ever come across anybody like that, which I never will, I will call them a knobhead. "Loose, lawless attitude toward life"? I literally have no idea what that means. What America are you from, pal?
posted by tumid dahlia at 8:30 PM on March 20, 2011


All this behaviour is petulance resulting from frustration at not getting their own way. I really don't want people who are going to burn places down when they don't get their own way living in Australia.

If you were locked up in prison indefinitely for doing nothing but seeking a better life what SHOULD you do? I think the sort of people clever and brave enough to even make it to Australia are exactly what we need.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:31 PM on March 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Look Lovecraft, it's great that you're working to understand the strange (sometimes even to me) mechanisms of this is country, but I think maybe you're approaching it in an ultimately nonproductive manner by working from the starting points of "anti-free-speech" and "no-respect-for-human-life". It could be that both these things are objectively true but by merely assuming it you are not presenting a particularly compelling argument and ultimately are just being provocative. Which is fine I guess, but perhaps a cooler head - or, merely, more dispassion? - might work out for everybody a little better.
posted by tumid dahlia at 8:42 PM on March 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


-is
posted by tumid dahlia at 8:42 PM on March 20, 2011


I find the existence of detention centres as offensive as the next person but I wish you would learn to be more considered in your ridiculous characterisations of Australians, LiB. "Loose and lawless"? Have you ever met an actual flesh and blood Australian? It seems less than likely.
posted by Lina Lamont at 8:56 PM on March 20, 2011


sorry, wrong choice of words. i meant 'loose' in a good way. the drinking, gambling, etc. Aussies are generally very polite and the government is amazingly humane - which makes the detention centres stand out even more
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:09 PM on March 20, 2011


sorry, wrong choice of words. i meant 'loose' in a good way. the drinking, gambling, etc. Aussies are generally very polite and the government is amazingly humane - which makes the detention centres stand out even more

Lovecraft, I think the reason that many of the Australian mefites (myself included) have their hackles up is because of your tendency to make sweeping, unsubtle generalisations.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:20 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


right. apologies, will be more sensitive in the future. but that doesn't change the fact that what happens to asylum seekers is disgusting and then xenophobia and racism directed at them is one of the only ugly aspects of Aussie public policy.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:23 PM on March 20, 2011


--"..your tendency to make sweeping, unsubtle generalisations.."--

"right. apologies, will be more sensitive in the future. but that doesn't change the fact that what happens to asylum seekers is disgusting.."


It's nice of folks to offer you reading lists and the somesuch, but perhaps we're gonna hafta include a dictionary. Do you see what you did there??? The inference is that everything that happens to asylum seekers is disgusting. One doesn't make sweeping generalisations magically disappear by launching into another sweeping generalisation.
posted by peacay at 9:30 PM on March 20, 2011




yeah, outsider here, don't know the situation... i think it sums up Australia's loose, lawlesscasual attitude toward life... what happens to asylum seekers is disgusting and then xenophobia and racism directed at them is one of the only ugly aspects of Aussie public policy... I think the sort of people clever and brave enough to even make it to Australia are exactly what we need. [Bolds mine]

Seriously, just stop. I'm not Aussie, I'm pretty suspicious of detention policies and practices in general, but seriously, just stop. It's something I would like to learn more about, and you aren't helping.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:45 PM on March 20, 2011


what's the defense though?

To what? You haven't made a specific claim.

Also, no one, with the exception of nemspyda, is defending Australia's illegal immigration policy. And nemspyda gave reasons for their view.

Alvy Ampersand - do you have specific questions? I'm not an expert on the topic, but i know a little bit about it.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:50 PM on March 20, 2011


Related: Description of the one, un-fenced hotel some refugees end up in in Darwin. (context for non-australians: we're running out of room in the prisons we currently hold refugees in. Those, especially with children, are being moved to hotels that have been booked out by the department of immigration.)

Obiwanwasabi, sounds pretty bloody unpleasant to me regardless of it being a "three star hotel". Indeed, sounds more like a prison than hotel, and if I had come from having my shit messed up in some other country, would be pretty bloody depressing.
posted by smoke at 9:55 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


obiwanwasabi: “So far we've had 'omgodwin, 'everything I've read' and 'no true Scotsman'. Really solid analysis of these complex issues, guys. Big pat on the back. You've won me over. Living conditions on Christmas Island are 'utterly horrifying', because...well, everybody knows, and you said Hitler, or something.”

Man, you brought up Hitler, so don't give me this stuff. While you have been sitting here telling us that Christmas Island is like a hotel, Fiasco Da Gama has been giving even, measured arguments that actually link to evidence of what he's saying. You have done no such thing.

“Quote this: if you use words like 'utterly horrifying' to describe things that are much less horrifying than things that were actually utterly horrifying, those words lose their meaning, and you lose your credibility as an objective analyst.”

Yeah, sure. But you've basically latched on to one person (who has admittedly stuck his foot in his mouth in this thread) and used him to straw-man the opposition.

The point of the post is that conditions at Christmas Island are not good. Your response thus far has been: "well, they're not horrific." Fine. Whatever. But that's like looking at what happened in Egypt a few weeks ago and saying, "well, at least it's not as bad as Libya." I mean, seriously – arguments of scale really don't have anything to do with the essential issues here, do they?

Really, I have a hard time believing that your entire reaction to Christmas Island is "well, it's not so bad." Is that really how you feel? Because if so, we'd all be benefited if you state that frankly instead of doing it sideways, via a derail.

By the way, Fiasco Da Gama's "here, with pictures" link was a little borked there (missing an "l" at the end) but it is worth reading. It's the 2010 Australian Human Rights Commission's report on Christmas Island, and it will explain to you why conditions on that island are utterly unacceptable, even if the descriptor "horrific" may be arguable.
posted by koeselitz at 9:56 PM on March 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


HTWRT - Aside from a casual familiarity with Nauru, I'm pretty well blank on the situation. I wouldn't mind seeing an FPP put together by someone who didn't follow up their header by copping to their ignorance on the subject and then used it to exercise a chip on their shoulder regarding Aussie society in general, but I'm drifting into MetaTalk territory here.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:02 PM on March 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


sorry, wrong choice of words.

Okay, thanks. I appreciate that.
posted by Lina Lamont at 10:18 PM on March 20, 2011


Alvy - The best advice on this immediate situation regarding Christmas Island is to read the Human Rights Commission Report. My understanding is that it is pretty accurate - there's a lot to talk about in it.

A short version, in no particular order:

1. All non-citizens who arrive by boat without a valid visa (irregular maritime arrivals) are taken to Christmas Island and placed in immigration detention. Show up by plane, overstay your visa, and you are unlikely to be thrown in a detention centre (although I have seen it happen once or twice). Given that, in crude terms, brown people show up by boat and white people show up by plane, there's an argument that the policy is racist.

2. The Christmas island facility is pretty close to a prison. Fences, razor wire...etc.

3. The facilities and the conditions are poor, and its pretty overcrowded.

4. Processing takes a very long time: The majority of the 2421 people detained on Christmas Island at the time of the Commission’s visit had been there for less than three months.However, 656 people had been detained for three months or more. Of those 656 people, 305 had been detained for six months or more; and of those 305 people, 121 had been detained for nine months or more. Some detainees were in other detention centres before Christmas Island, and some will be moved to other centres.

There's a pretty good argument that the Govenrment is putting people who have committed no crime (other than entering the country without a visa) in jail for an indefinite period. Mnay of those people are likely already traumatised.

5.There are kids in there. Over 200. There have been recent moves to move them out of the detention centres, but that doesn't mean they are being well cared for.

There's more, but I'm out of time.

The defence comes down to this: We have the right to protect our borders, and we are the only ones who get to decide who comes here.

The issue has been used extensively in recent Federal elections as a wedge issue, and remains highly controversial.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:23 PM on March 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Troubles at Other Detention Centres.

"...at the Scherger Detention Centre in far north Queensland they've launched a coronial investigation into the apparent suicide of a 20-year-old Afghan man. "
posted by smoke at 10:29 PM on March 20, 2011


To HTWRT's list, I would add:

6. As well as housing asylum seekers and their children, the detention centres are apparently also being used to detain suspected people smugglers in advance of criminal charges being laid against them—in other words turning an administrative detention into a genuinely criminal environment, and detaining people who may have committed serious crimes alongside the victims of those crimes.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 10:34 PM on March 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Psychological Status of Former Refugee Detainees from the Woomera Detention Centre now Living in the Australian Community (PDF)

Mandatory incarceration in Australian detention centres of refugees appears to contribute to severe psychological distress.
posted by smoke at 10:39 PM on March 20, 2011


I just wanted to second everything Fiasco di Gama has said in this thread.

As the blond-haired, blue-eyed grand-child of refugees who fled a war-torn country by paying *gasp* people smugglers to get them across a border (lying and cheating generally comes with this sort of territory) the only difference between me and some of those people in detention centres is that the war in question was 60 years ago. Oh, and I'm white.
posted by jasperella at 11:09 PM on March 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


Jasper, there's a massive difference - your ancestors were smuggled out of warzone over a BORDER. These people have globetrotted to get here - how many countries have they passed by and through? I'm pretty sure none of them came directly from land-locked Afghanistan by boat. Why do Tamils fleeing persecution in Sri Lanka not go across the strait to the Tamil part of India? If your ancestors had flown out of wherever they were fleeing and then once they were safe decided to hire a people smuggler then they would be the same. That's not quite the same as some frantic midnight dash through hostile territory in the middle of a warzone.

It's because the push factor here, in addition to wars and such, is one of economic benefits. Remember that news story a few years ago about the Afghan man who was interviewed at an icecream parlour in Indonesia about how he was "just waiting out the monsoon season and then he would be smuggled into Australia"? - This is what Australian people object to. It's against our sense of fair-play. Aussies are some of the most generous people I know, but we don't like to feel like we're being taken advantage of.

If these boats were full of Indonesians fleeing a warzone in Indonesia I'm sure the Australian public would welcome them with open arms. If these were people who had fled to a nearby country and then applied to emigrate for a new life in Australia - I'm sure Aussies would welcome their application with open arms.

When you come here, bypassing countries, and then do things like - oh (all examples from the past 10 years or so)

*Hurl faeces at navy personnel who are trying to shift you.
*Hold customs vessels to ransom, refusing to debark at a safe port because you want to go to Australia.
*Burn down expensive facilities because you're unhappy about the time your application is taking.
*Scuttle your own boat, morally blackmailing the Australian navy to take you on board.

Australian's aren't going to view that as fair play.

This is a complicated situation - it's not as simple as "brown people arrive by boats - whites by plane - therefore it's racist" - People arriving by plane don't go to detention because unless they are cleared they don't board the plane in the first place and short of closing our boarders to all international travelers visa overstayers are always going to be something we can't prevent. The main thing is they can't work legally and we know who they are and any security issues they may present. The difference between rules for boats and planes isn't brown vs white - it's a simple matter of documentation and security.

I'm sure, despite the facilities, detention centre's aren't a fun place to be, but no one forced them to avoid all those other countries on the way there and they can leave at any time. They aren't prisoners.
posted by nemspyda at 11:26 PM on March 20, 2011


nemspyda: It's against our sense of fair-play. Aussies are some of the most generous people I know, but we don't like to feel like we're being taken advantage of.
Feel free to just speak for yourself there, nemspyda. "Taken advantage of" how, exactly? By integrating into society, enriching our culture, and becoming good tax-paying citizens?

Further, your list of "horrid things those evil brownies have done" is nothing but a list of protest items about the detention centres. And if I were being held in prison for a year or more, uncharged, unconvicted, I'd be pretty bloody pissed-off too.

..they can leave at any time. They aren't prisoners.
Are you sure? I thought the whole point was that ZOMG SECURITY RISK etc etc. How would they leave? How CAN they leave? I'd hazard there aren't too many Afghanistan-bound flights out of Christmas Island.
posted by coriolisdave at 11:37 PM on March 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Why do Tamils fleeing persecution in Sri Lanka not go across the strait to the Tamil part of India?

Google is your friend. Let me get you started:
Some in Australia have asked why Tamils fleeing Sri Lanka don't just go the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu, home to 60 million Tamil speakers. The answer is that more than 100,000 have done just that.
posted by vidur at 11:42 PM on March 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Why do Tamils fleeing persecution in Sri Lanka not go across the strait to the Tamil part of India?
I don't know. Why don't you ask 280,000 of them?
People arriving by plane don't go to detention
That simply isn't true. If a person arrives at Kingsford Smith, and immediately approaches the Australian Immigration officials to demand political or religious asylum in Australia (as is the approved method, identically to people who arrive in the same fashion at Heathrow, or Dulles, or LAX), yes, they are generally detained, most likely at Villawood, until their claim is heard. Asylum seekers are not simply turned back at the gates—that's illegal.
The difference between rules for boats and planes isn't brown vs white - it's a simple matter of documentation and security
The other—political—factor is deterrence, which was the basis behind the Pacific Solution, and remains the basis for keeping asylum seekers at CI: the idea that to deter people from undertaking a dangerous sea voyage, the conditions for people recovered by sea should be made as difficult, lengthy and arduous as possible. To my mind it's a fair goal, but a morally reprehensible method.
they can leave at any time. They aren't prisoners
You're right, they're not prisoners. They're asylum seekers. If they've claimed asylum from a country which is persecuting them, Australia has a legal obligation not to send them back there (non-refoulement). Indonesia and Malaysia aren't signatories to the Refugee Conventions, and they'd simply refuse them if Australia were to fly them back. If they could find another country willing to take them, they'd leave immediately—the problem is that there aren't any.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 11:43 PM on March 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


I was supposed to put that in quotes - ("Some in Australia ... done just that").
posted by vidur at 11:44 PM on March 20, 2011


nemspyda: “Remember that news story a few years ago about the Afghan man who was interviewed at an icecream parlour in Indonesia about how he was "just waiting out the monsoon season and then he would be smuggled into Australia"? - This is what Australian people object to. It's against our sense of fair-play. Aussies are some of the most generous people I know, but we don't like to feel like we're being taken advantage of.”

Cite, please? I have a hard time believing this was real. I've seen Australian TV before, and I don't trust it much.
posted by koeselitz at 11:45 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


So far we've had 'omgodwin, 'everything I've read' and 'no true Scotsman'. Really solid analysis of these complex issues, guys. Big pat on the back. You've won me over.
You're the one who brought up the Nazis, dumbass. Specificially to say it was not as bad as a nazi death camp. There are a lot of things that are not as bad as a nazi death camp, but still pretty bad. Since then you've posted a bunch of nonsensical rants about language.
This is what Australian people object to. It's against our sense of fair-play.
That's the biggest load of bullshit ever. The idea that people just love rules and red tape so much they're willing to keep people in prison to make sure they are followed properly is just totally absurd. No one cares that much about rules and regulations for their own intrinsic value. They care about what the rules are supposed to prevent. For example, the reason people care about food safety regulations is because they are worried about getting sick.
posted by delmoi at 11:49 PM on March 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


The difference between rules for boats and planes isn't brown vs white - it's a simple matter of documentation and security.

Tell that to people who write letters to The Australian.
posted by vidur at 12:11 AM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've seen Australian TV before, and I don't trust it much.

I realise that from the exalted perspective of US citizens who may have seen something or other on YouTube, it all seems the same. It really isn't. The ABC and SBS are pretty solid journalistic entities; the ABC is funded by taxes and most of SBS is as well, and they're at arm's length from government interference in policy matters as well as commercial influence. What you've just said is that because the Torygraph is dodgy, you don't trust the BBC.

That said, the story referred to is clearly a product of the commercial networks, which are mostly a sewer.
posted by Wolof at 12:11 AM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


visa overstayers are always going to be something we can't prevent.

So are people arriving by boat: we (Australians) don't control the point of departure, and those that do are apparently unwilling or unable to do so.

But why throw one group in detention and not the other? I'd be interested in your view.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 12:15 AM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Refugee detention is our national shame, and I expect that in a few dozen years we'll look back on it with a similar embarrassment that (most, decent) Americans look on slavery. It's simply a despicable thing to do to people. It doesn't matter what pragmatic advantages might be gained from it. It's just morally and ethically wrong.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 12:42 AM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I worked in an immigrant detention centre one summer in the UK. It was also the summer I worked as a binman, door to door salesman, waiter, wooden floor sander. I did six weeks of 13 hour shifts there as a cook.

They aren't prisons. I appreciate the distinction may be lost on people for whom all forced detention is prison, but they aren't like prisons in terms of the atmosphere, food, facilities, treatment of the detainees. People aren't herded about the place all day. There isn't an air of menace about them.

The two overriding emotions of the detainees were boredom and frustration. They are boring places, and the process is frustrating. If you want to direct your anger somewhere, direct it at the process, with its multiple lines of appeal and six month waiting times for each. From my limited conversations with some of the detainees there didn't seem to be much rhyme or reason to why some people got through and others didn't. That fact alone caused a lot of stress.

Not all refugees are who they say they are. People claim asylum for all sorts of reasons. Among the people in the centre I cooked at, there were rumored to be a very small minority of fairly nasty people - all from one country. They started a riot at the centre the week before I got there. It was small scale stuff, but they beat up an elderly cleaner quite badly and trashed the pool table - one of the few leisure activities the detainees had. They were claiming political asylum because the winds of change in their country made them accountable for their alleged crimes. Would you have wanted them in the general population? Nope. I'm not claiming they are A MAJOR THREAT TO SOCIETY but as a live example they do exist.

There were other political asylum seekers too, of course. Lots of them. Some energetic and active. Others quiet and downcast. There were undoubtedly economic migrants within that group. Who knows who many. In lots of countries the distinction is fairly debatable anyway.

Lots of people - myself included - have a problem with detention centres. Who seriously wants to lock up families? But few have practical solutions. If I had one single change, I'd dedicate more money and resources to speeding up the process. But it's not a catrch all solution. Neither is eliminating some form of control on immigration.

Unless your solution involves taking it on trust that anyone who arrives on a boat or plane, having flushed their papers down the toilet, can stay in the country. Because for "destination" asylum* countries the options are open door or a system of dealing with people who might otherwise disappear into the ether if left to their own devices. 66,000 people were removed or departed voluntarily from the UK in 2008. Around 25,000 people each year claim asylum. It's a lot of paperless people to process.

* By which I mean countries that are not directly next to areas of conflict or repression (such as South Africa).
posted by MuffinMan at 1:44 AM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Beheaded in Afghanistan

DIMIA gets details of killed asylum seekers

Nemspyda, the stakes for these desperate people are a lot higher than you pretend to articulate - as if you give a shit.

MuffinMan, I'm not sure what your experience cooking in a detention centre in a completely different country for one summer has to do with Australia's current offshore detainment, or your charge that those of us that abhor these terrible conditions - that have resulted in more than one suicide and proven psychological disorders in children - are somehow advocating an open door policy.
posted by smoke at 3:05 AM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


To be clear: I don't have a problem with the limited detention of those asylum seekers who can't prove their identity or who may pose a security risk. I do have a problem with mandatory detention. I have great problems with mandatory detention outside the scope of Australian domestic courts. I have extreme problems with the detention of children, especially unaccompanied children, in such centres. And most of all, I am ashamed that those centres exist as a deterrent, or punishment, or example to others.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 3:09 AM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Thanks everyone who's posting useful links and giving information in this thread. I am completely ashamed of Australia's treatment of refugees and am just about ready to cut a bitch when I hear phrases like "illegal immigrants" and "queue-jumpers". There is so much ignorance around this issue, so much racism and hatefulness.

My understanding is that the Christmas Island detention centre was built to hold 400 refugees, but at the time of the riots was housing over 1800. This alone would be enough to drive me insane, I'm entirely unsurprised there were riots and disturbances.

I don't advocate an open door policy; I'd love to stop people smugglers. But there's no excuse, ever, for treating refugees as if they were criminals, just because they wanted to get out of a war zone and thought that the Aussies who are part of the 'liberators' gang might help them out.

Is it out of the question to have an official processing centre in Indonesia? With proper staffing and people doing all the paperwork so that people don't have to risk their lives on leaky boats with the threat of the navy lying about children overboard or whatever else scumbag politicians are prepared to do to vilify them?
posted by harriet vane at 3:15 AM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


This also seems relevant to me: In a truly globalised world, immigration would be free.

My kingdom for an edit window
posted by harriet vane at 3:18 AM on March 21, 2011


Harriet: it's quite out of the question, as the Indonesian Government would quite rightly see it as an attempt by Australia to shift the costs of asylum seeking offshore. Last year the East Timorese Government nearly tore Stephen Smith a new hole just for suggesting it.

More importantly, Indonesia isn't a signatory to the Refugee Convention, so anybody rejected from such a processing centre would have to fall back onto plan B: get kicked out of Indonesia, and to try one's luck entering Malaysia, Singapore, or crossing the Timor Sea.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 3:26 AM on March 21, 2011


MuffinMan, I'm not sure what your experience cooking in a detention centre in a completely different country for one summer has to do with Australia's current offshore detainment,

The UK's detention centres stand accused of several of the same accusations as Australia's. As someone who's actually spent time in a centre and talked to a fair number of asylum seekers, it's a valid place to chip in.

or your charge that those of us that abhor these terrible conditions - that have resulted in more than one suicide and proven psychological disorders in children - are somehow advocating an open door policy.

I'm charging no such thing. I'm saying the options are open door or some system of control. If you can't physically control where people go you risk them disappearing. This doesn't mean detention centres need to be sh*tholes. But you tend to see more opposition to detention centres than solutions for what should replace them. As I've made clear, I see the problem in the length of time spent on processing applications.
posted by MuffinMan at 3:34 AM on March 21, 2011


it will explain to you why conditions on that island are utterly unacceptable

Yes; just glimpsing the photos gives the lie to the "3-star hotel" line. $10 a night hostel, maybe. Anyway, it wouldn't matter if it was 5-star luxury with gold-plated taps: you can be living in the place you treasure more than any other, a place you have modified over the years to your own personal wishes, and if somebody locks the door and keeps you there against your will it becomes a prison.

Shrugging this off as the wheels of bureaucracy turning slowly is totally unacceptable, too. What sort of residents will these turn out to be when their introduction to the country has been a Kafkaesque nightmare?

How depressing to see the same bullshit that Howard was peddling at the time of the Tampa crisis still getting play from some here.
posted by rory at 3:40 AM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Jasper, there's a massive difference - your ancestors were smuggled out of warzone over a BORDER. These people have globetrotted to get here - how many countries have they passed by and through? I'm pretty sure none of them came directly from land-locked Afghanistan by boat.

I can grasp quite easily grasp why, say, those fleeing Afghanistan might not want to spend years sitting in a refugee camp in, say, Iran or Pakistan, neither country a model of stability and security.

I can understand why those who can afford to* choose to make the exceedingly dangerous journey to Australia under such circumstances, and I feel for the 40 odd million people worldwide that live in refugee camps. The 2000 or so that come to Australia each year are really just a miniscule drop in the ocean.

Oh, and according to the Australian Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, more than 92% of all children who have arrived in Australia by boat have been recognised as genuine refugees.

*Just as my grandparents were rich enough to escape their homeland, while many millions more stayed behind and loved in danger, deprivation and hardship for another 40 years before the collapse of the Berlin wall.
posted by jasperella at 4:07 AM on March 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Late to the thread, but as a former refugee lawyer I'd like to clear up one major misunderstanding that's rife throughout this issue.

Mandatory detention applies only to asylum seekers who arrive "illegally", ie without a valid visa for entering the country.

These asylum seekers comprise a miniscule proportion of all asylum seekers. By far the most common method of entry for asylum seekers is to fly in like anybody else on a valid visa (usually tourist) and then claim asylum.

To repeat: asylum seekers who arrive on valid visas are not subject to detention.

It has nothing to do with people being "brown", because plenty of brown & black & yellow & white & miscellaneous people claim asylum without being subject to mandatory detention. Also, Australia is a very multicultural society, with many many migrants from all corners of the world. There are zillions of non-anglo-saxon people living happily & contributing healthily to society.

It's 100% to do with the method of arrival. (I'm not going to address the issue of why boat people are treated as a bogeyman when other asylum seekers are A-OK other than to suggest that it was a political issue that once established became entrenched, with neither major party wishing to appear "soft" on the issue).

For what it's worth, I'm personally against detention centres for various reasons, but one of them is that there's no strong logical reason why people who enter the country legally should be treated so much better than people who enter illegally.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:09 AM on March 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


I can't believe I am about to defend the detention system. Huh.
OK, Australia has obligations under the UN refugee convention to accept genuine refugees, and is allowed under those obligations to assess applicants for genuine refugee status.
Indeed, Australia takes lots of refugees from refugee camps in other countries each year.
Sadly, there are some racist fucks in Australia, who would rather not accept refugees. I wish they would shut up, but they don't.
So the net result is Australia has a human budget for how many refugees are accepted. More refugees turning up on Ashmore Reef at their great personal risk, means a corresponding decrease in acceptances from the "certified" refugees in Malaysia or Thailand or whatever.
If you aren't racist, assuming people from precisely the same location and background, it seems unfair that some family in a refugee camp in Indonesia should miss out on Australian resettlement because their neighbour presses on in a people smuggler-rewarding leaky boat.
And couple that with a fear that the people pressing on are those most likely to be denied asylum, because the feeling is if they were likely candidates they would stand a better chance of resettlement in SE Asian departure port (can we at least agree *some* asylum seekers are embarking because they feel their chances are worse with an off-shore to Australia assessment).
Am I sympathetic to a boat person? Yes, pretty much. I can empathise, I would probably risk a lot if I was escaping Afghanistan or violent areas of Sri Lanka with my family. But I am also understanding of a point of view that says asylum seekers turning up in a boat from Indonesia are taking great risks in an attempt to advance their opportunity for a refugee resettlement in Australia (i.e. A Current Affairs "queue jumpers").
And I think the idea of incarcerating people who are refugees is very troubling (even moreso than incorrectly jailing the innocent, because most of the refugees we end up seeing are in a pretty bad way mentally).
But?
Well, how about we cut a deal? Talk to Thailand or Malaysia, agree for them to hold non-visa holding arrivals in Australia, and Australia agrees to take double the number of assessed refugees for each deposited by Aus.
Such an approach increases the number of genuine refugees admitted to Aus, yet takes away the argument we are rewarding queue jumpers.
The end result is more refugees are housed safely than the current system, and we remove the frustration of current detention practices.
posted by bystander at 4:09 AM on March 21, 2011


96-99% of asylum seekers arrive by air - which means, by definition, with a valid visa, as airlines are obliged to check visas before letting passengers on board (or else they wear the cost of flying them back again!)

See the Asylum Seekers Fact Sheet from getup.org (PDF)
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:14 AM on March 21, 2011


While I am at it ('it' being probably unworkable immigration schemes), why don't we sign free trade/free migration agreements? I reckon we could get NZ, a few Scandinavian countries and probably the Netherlands and Ireland on board. Let's make a bloc of places where freedom is not just about capital but also applies to people.
posted by bystander at 4:20 AM on March 21, 2011


bystander - we already have a free migration scheme with NZ.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:25 AM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thank you, Ubiroivas, for saying what I was too busy and poorly informed to say.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:29 AM on March 21, 2011


Thanks, bystander and UbuRoivas, for more detail.

I do think racism plays a role in why the detention centres operate the way they do - witness the recent uproar in Northam in WA and Invernickie in SA about having facilities opened in both towns.

It's politically very unpopular for governments to suggest different arrangements for asylum seekers who arrive by boat.
posted by jasperella at 4:29 AM on March 21, 2011


Thanks. I think it's a lucky irony, that the general public seems to have no idea that mandatory detention applies to such a tiny proportion of asylum seekers.

I think that people in the refugee field probably prefer it that way, because it means that most asylum seekers can get about in the general community without any hassle (although they miss out on things like free medical services under Medicare, and have restrictions on work while they're on bridging visas pending the determination of their asylum claims).

(as an aside, shame on liquorice, who as a law student should know better than to say things like "it's because they're brown", although the point about UKians overstaying their visas is completely correct)
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:45 AM on March 21, 2011


I'm not ashamed to say it. It was an oversimplification of course, but racial issues have had a role to play in this situation, that we are a multicultural society doesn't change that at all. The misinformation and ignorance from swathes of the general public about the numbers of boat people that arrive and that they will somehow overtake the last bastion of Western morality is most certainly alive and is part of the reason these centers continue to exist.

Also, no longer a law student, I get admitted later this year. Woo!
posted by liquorice at 5:43 AM on March 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Thanks, Fiasco. I see where the unsuccessful refugees would be up shit creek if we process in Indonesia. I'm not sure I understand about the costs, though? I was thinking we'd pay for it ourselves. Or do you mean non-monetary costs? If so, what sorts of things would that include?

Ubu, I do think there is racism in the public reaction to boat people, if not in the logistics of airlines checking visas prior to departure while boat people don't have that option. As you say, it's lucky it's not more widely known that there are visa-ed refugees actually living in the community before getting their paperwork sorted. I certainly won't be telling some of my Facebook 'friends' - I get into enough arguments just mentioning facts about boat people already.

The biggest misconception I see is that people think if only we were 'tougher' then refugees wouldn't try to get here. I dunno - I complain about Australia a lot, but it was good enough for my grandparents to move here when they were refugees after WWII, it's got a nice stable democracy, is unlikely to be attacked by major superpowers, unemployment rates aren't too bad, and the weather is nice. Even if there were no 'welfare state' we'd still look like a pretty attractive option. You'd think people would be flattered, but no, it's all panic that boat people will steal our jobs while collecting unemployment benefits.
posted by harriet vane at 6:10 AM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wolof: “That said, the story referred to is clearly a product of the commercial networks, which are mostly a sewer.”

Like I said.
posted by koeselitz at 6:28 AM on March 21, 2011


I don't get how Austrailia can be crowded when all their young people are working the bars in England.
posted by srboisvert at 6:39 AM on March 21, 2011


Don't complain - it raises the average IQ of both countries.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:47 AM on March 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


I get admitted later this year. Woo!

Congratulations!
posted by the quidnunc kid at 7:04 AM on March 21, 2011


I have to say I find all the snarky asides like "as if you care!" directed toward people who support mandatory detention to be pretty offensive.

You have no idea what my, and other people's points of view are and your strawman of us "not caring" just turns this from a civil discussion into petty, nasty politics.

I completely get where the people who are unhappy about mandatory detention are coming from, I just don't see what their alternative could possibly be. Like most Australians, I'm concerned with the security issues raised by undocumented arrivals (as opposed to documented ones who arrive by plane) and by economic migrants jumping the queue (yes, I know someone's going to leap in here with a bit about how there is no physical "queue" snaking off into the distance - we all know this) or trying to take places they otherwise wouldn't have qualified for at the expense of other needier people in refugee camps around the globe.

Visa overstayers are not a security threat or a drain on the economy. If anything they are SPENDING their money. I'd say the average level of concern about them is because of this, not because in percentage terms they are more likely to be white.

I think it's rather pathetic that we've got one side of the argument turning this into a clash of binary opposite viewpoints. This isn't a moral fable where the good and wonderful group of people is up against the nasty, intolerant racists. It's about competing points of view about fairness and rightness. The competing points of view here are as complex as the issue itself and simplifying it down into brown people and white people, tolerant and racist, right and wrong, is to ignore these complexities. It's no better than saying every asylum seeker is a fraud or every one of them is legit.
posted by nemspyda at 10:50 AM on March 21, 2011


So the net result is Australia has a human budget for how many refugees are accepted. More refugees turning up on Ashmore Reef at their great personal risk, means a corresponding decrease in acceptances from the "certified" refugees in Malaysia or Thailand or whatever.

This is completely untrue, bystander. The number of asylum seekers is decoupled and has no bearing on our annual refugee intake "quota".

Bystander has illustrated the ignorance that plagues this issue and is encouraged by politicians of both stripes. If you want to have an opinion about this issue, I think it behoves you to spend 5-10 minutes googling to educate yourself.

Nemspyda:I completely get where the people who are unhappy about mandatory detention are coming from, I just don't see what their alternative could possibly be.

It's not that hard, Nemspyda, we didn't have mandatory detention until Keating introduced it in 1994 or so. The thousands of Vietnamese refugees, for example, that Australia took during and after the Vietnam war were not subject to this kind of detention. Amazingly, it wasn't an issue with the public back then, almost at all. Except for one Liberal politician who got flogged for saying it, and was widely derided anyway. That was John Howard, of course.
posted by smoke at 2:59 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Visa overstayers are not a security threat or a drain on the economy.

How are visa overstayers any less of a security threat than asylum seekers?
posted by liquorice at 3:35 PM on March 21, 2011


Liquorice, for one thing, a visa overstayer has had to demonstrate their identity when they received the visa. They would not have had a visa in the first place if, for instance, they were wanted for a serious crime in another country.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 3:40 PM on March 21, 2011


It also doesn't make sense to contrast detention for illegal immigrants v the treatment of illegal overstayers, because illegal overstayers can be, and are, deported. You can't deport somebody who is being processed for an asylum claim until after the final determination has been made.

Regarding the length of time for processing, which was mentioned upthread, it's worth noting that the primary determinations are normally made relatively quickly, but the time-consuming part comes in when people appeal.

The general process is as follows (or at least, it was last time I had anything to do with it. IANARL, IANYRL):

1. Application to DIAC (Dept of Immigration & Citizenship): this is a form-filling exercise, and the DIAC decision is a purely administrative, not judicial function. DIAC tends to err on the side of caution, and rejects a large proportion of applications. This decision takes in the order of a month or so.

2. If rejected by DIAC, appeal to the Refugee Review Tribunal (RRT), which is an independent & informal tribunal with the power to make a fresh decision on matters of both fact & law (from memory). Anecdotally, it's staffed by experienced refugee professionals who are generally sympathetic towards applicants. This decision should still be made within a few months of the initial application.

3. If rejected by the RRT, it's time to appeal to the regular courts, where the delays really start to kick in. At this point applicants don't have a very high hope of success, and it's more like a last-ditch tactic to buy time. The appeals would typically be under Administrative Law, in which case it's a review of matters of law only, not fact, and a "successful" result would simply mean that the matter is referred back to DIAC or the RRT to make the determination again. There might also be one or more escalating rungs beyond the initial judicial review, as well (again, not addressing issues of fact).

4. If all these avenues fail, there's still an option of a direct appeal to the Minister, on compassionate grounds. This is almost de rigeur, but only likely to be successful for applicants with terrible stories, but who don't fit within the strict Convention definition of "refugee" (eg they are persecuted or denied protection, but not for of any of the Convention reasons - race, religion, etc).

So that's about it. Generally speaking, if people languish in detention centres for years & years, it's not because the powers that be are deliberately taking their time - it's more likely that they've lost at both DIAC & RRT levels, and are slowly churning through the appeal processes in regular, formal courts.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:01 PM on March 21, 2011


But UbuRoivas, isn't that process only applicable for people claiming asylum who aren't under the excision regime (ie. on Christmas Island)? I thought the changes to the Migration Act specifically forbade unauthorised entrants at Christmas Island, Ashmore Reef, and so on, from having access to the RRT and AAT.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 7:09 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


That was after my time, but I think you're right. It's a bit like the septic tanks pretending that Guantanamo Bay isn't US territory, so not subject to the jurisdiction of regular US courts. In fact, I think Howard copied the idea from the Americans.

By creating this artificial legal definition that those places are "not within the migration zone" the applicants are deemed never to have entered Australia, and therefore not subject to review by Australian courts or tribunals.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:18 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Visa overstayers are not a security threat or a drain on the economy.

There's obviously a need to run background or security checks on refugees. You don't want criminals mixed in with the legitimate refugees.

But refugees aren't a drain on the economy. After being approved for immigration, they get jobs, send their kids to school (who then go on to get jobs as well), they spend money on rent and groceries - same as anyone else. Any costs attributed to boat people are caused by detaining them and then having to house, feed and clothe them instead of letting them sort it out themselves. And as previously mentioned, before Keating we didn't do mandatory detention, and there weren't any huge problems with that.
posted by harriet vane at 9:22 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Refugees also add to Australia's cultural diversity.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:26 PM on March 21, 2011


But refugees aren't a drain on the economy.

This is true, and isn't - it all depends who they are compared to. Compared to the babies had by Australians, they are - in the main - cheaper, or rather they start paying back their "debt" faster, and the "debt" is lower. Compared to skilled immigrants, they are generally more expensive.

Skilled immigrants themselves are actually, unbelievably, a tiny net drain on the economy (tiny). So asylum seeker are too (albeit it even tinier because there's so few of them). This doesn't apply to their children etc, that's a different ball game. But, truly, you can't extend the tally into cross-generational because then where would you stop it, and it simply becomes a race as to who was in the country the longest.

Ross Gittins writes a little bit about this here (about half way down he starts talking about it).

Of course, there is also a cost (or rather, less growth) to the kind of shrinking population we would have sans immigration/refugees, so in this respect you could argue that asylum seekers cost less growth than no asylum seekers, but you're truly getting into the economic voodoo there - very hard to quantify, lots of confounding factors.

Let the record reflect; I believe the piffling cost to our national economy is worth nothing compared to the moral benefits of taking on asylum seekers, to say nothing of the long term economic impact (negligible to positive) and certainly this is an argument I would never engage in with a xenophobe - it's too complicated and they would simply view as vindication for their racism - but it's true that these acts of humanitarianism do come at a small cost.
posted by smoke at 10:09 PM on March 21, 2011


before Keating we didn't do mandatory detention, and there weren't any huge problems with that.

Exactly. Who has any problem with the Vietnamese, for example?* The first generation of refugees work hard running bakeries & making tasty Banh Mi & Pho, while their kids are all pharmacists & vets & doctors.

And we were at war against Vietnam. If any refugee population could be justified for bearing a grudge, they would've been a perfect example, but clearly people seeking a new life away from a war-torn country are not, in fact, sneaking into the country to perform acts of violence or terrorism.**

* Other than the now politically irrelevant nationalist twit Pauline Hanson.

** I realise this is begging the question, but the kind of xenophobia that assumes some refugees might be sekrit terrorists is so stupid that question-begging is allowed.

posted by UbuRoivas at 10:43 PM on March 21, 2011


I didn't know that, smoke. I still wouldn't call a piffling cost a "drain on the economy" though, which implies a significant and ongoing cost. It's hard to tell what people mean when they use that phrase, although based on the horrible forwarded emails I sometimes get, I suspect it's a belief that boat people just want to collect the dole rather than contribute to the society they're trying to join.
posted by harriet vane at 12:52 AM on March 22, 2011


So the net result is Australia has a human budget for how many refugees are accepted. More refugees turning up on Ashmore Reef at their great personal risk, means a corresponding decrease in acceptances from the "certified" refugees in Malaysia or Thailand or whatever.

This is completely untrue, bystander. The number of asylum seekers is decoupled and has no bearing on our annual refugee intake "quota".

Bystander has illustrated the ignorance that plagues this issue and is encouraged by politicians of both stripes. If you want to have an opinion about this issue, I think it behoves you to spend 5-10 minutes googling to educate yourself.


I didn't know this, and my first google hit (http://www.immi.gov.au/media/fact-sheets/60refugee.htm) shows lower offshore humanitarian visas in years where 'onshore' visas are higher, and the total number of refugee and humanitarian visas is pretty stable. Can you please show me why you think it is decoupled? I'm genuinely asking, not being snarky. I don't want to remain ignorant, if that is the case.
posted by bystander at 2:43 AM on March 22, 2011


It could be true in the sense that the number of "onshore" (refugees) is not coupled to (offshore) refugees (pegged at 6,000) but more onshore refugees means fewer offshore special humanitarian places.

In these figures, (offshore) refugees = people already assessed by the UNHCR as genuine refugees, and awaiting resettlement from camps overseas.

Special humanitarian = people not fitting the Convention definition of "refugees" but still in need of assistance. To give an example of what this might include, think of "unmarried mothers in tribal areas of Pakistan". Precedent has refused to recognise situations like that as fitting the "particular social group" reason for persecution, and it doesn't at all fit race / religion / political opinion etc.

So, they're not refugees in the legal sense, but would be thought of as such in a lay or moral sense.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:14 AM on March 22, 2011


Ubu, not to come off as a racist (oh dear what an awful qualifier) but to take the gloss off your unqualified endorsement of Vietnamese immigrants, speaking as a long-term resident of Footscray, while it's true that they are overwhelmingly successful and hardworking citizens, it's also true that the heroin trade is dominated by Vietnamese. And to correct your historic understanding, the Vietnamese refugees we took were overwhelmingly middle-class southerners who would have fared poorly under a communist government. We were certainly not at war with them, they were our allies.
posted by wilful at 4:45 PM on March 22, 2011


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