If I could turn back the boats I'd give them all to you
August 13, 2012 3:16 AM   Subscribe

A Government-convened expert group has suggested that Australia return to the so-called Pacific Solution to deal with its asylum-seeker conundrum, and break a political impasse.

Groups like Amnesty International argue asylum seekers arriving by boat make up less than 2% of Australia’s annual immigration, and it's not that big a deal.

The report was delivered today.
The key points:
* Establish offshore processing facilities in Nauru and PNG as part of a "comprehensive regional network".
* Pursue talks on the Malaysian solution but seek more reassurances from Malaysia about the treatment of people who are sent there.
* Increase co-operation with Indonesia on joint surveillance, law enforcement, and search and rescue.
* Increase Australia's humanitarian intake from 13,000 to 20,000 places a year, and up to 27,000 within five years.
* Those who arrive by boat should not be eligible to sponsor family members to join them in Australia.
* Consider turning back boats in the future but only if operational, safety and legal conditions are met.
The full report his here.

While the number of irregular arrivals to Australia is minimal compared to other European nations, the issue of what to do with "boat people" has been an intractable one for Australia's Government since the so-called Tampa Election in 2001 after which then Prime Minister John Howard decided to deal with the issue of over-crowding in Australia's immigration detention centres by reducing Australia's migration zone, and establishing offshore processing centres on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, and Nauru. Most ended up being resettled in Australia and New Zealand anyway.

Described as inhumane, that policy was scrapped by the newly elected Rudd Government in 2008. The move was welcomed by the UN and refugee advocates.

Subsequently the number of irregular migrants seeking asylum has sky-rocketed. The new Gillard Government attempted to frame a new solution with first Timor Leste and then Malaysia acting as offshore processing centres, but the last option was blocked by the Supreme Court earlier this year.

With the Christmas Island centre and other newly-built centres at or close to capacity and a number of high profile tragedies and rescues, Gillard charged former defense chief Angus Houston to come up with a solution even as numbers have hit new records and a boat of 67 passengers is missing.

Reaction has been mixed to the attempt to break the deadlock, for what is one of Australia's biggest political issues

The minority Government intends to put new legislation before the Parliament tomorrow, however the Greens are against all offshore processing and the Liberal Party refuses to support the Malaysian option. Amnesty International is appalled by the recommendations. The Human Rights Law Centre says the recommendations are a violation of Australia's international legal obligations. Malaysia is angry. Indonesia has welcomed it. Save the Children praised it.
posted by Mezentian (39 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
It makes perfect sense even if you're not a bogan; if there's one place too crowded to take the people, it's Australia.

Now off to read the links.
posted by jaduncan at 3:33 AM on August 13, 2012


It makes perfect sense even if you're not a bogan; if there is one place prosperous enough in this region to be humanitarian, advanced and clever enough to work out how to help these poor people driven to such desperate lengths to try and start afresh from nothing; it's Australia.
posted by gomichild at 4:05 AM on August 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I grew up in Malaysia all through the 70s until the early 80s. The much shoved around Vietnamese boat people often ended up on her East Coast shores as well.
posted by infini at 4:13 AM on August 13, 2012


I think an even crueller policy than turning away asylum seekers is one which encourages them to pass through the hands of people smugglers in multiple countries before embarking on an ocean voyage upon a derelict boat.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:25 AM on August 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


It makes perfect sense even if you're not a bogan; if there is one place prosperous enough in this region to be humanitarian, advanced and clever enough to work out how to help these poor people driven to such desperate lengths to try and start afresh from nothing; it's Australia.

The original sentence was ironic, you know. I actually largely agree with AI that without reform in the source countries not very much will change. Push and pull factors, and all that.
posted by jaduncan at 4:28 AM on August 13, 2012


And if the links in this post aren't enough, try wading through these:

Asylum Seekers and Australia: the evidence via TheConversation.
posted by But tomorrow is another day... at 4:45 AM on August 13, 2012


I felt quite sad about this today. It especially horrifies me that one recommendation is that boat arrivals will never be eligible to sponsor family members to later migrate to join them in Australia. A number of boat arrivals are unaccompained children and it is inhumane to accept them as refugees and then block a means for them to be reunited with their families. Other migrants and other asylum seekers (those who arrive by plane for example) will retain this entitlement. This is heartless persecution of the most vunerable, those who have no other choice than to arrive by boat.

For those of you not in Australia recent debate on asylum seekers has been focused around a number of asylum boat sinkings with terrible death tolls. However the debate though has been going on for some years and the is riddled with mean spirited, selfish, and fearful motivations and rhetoric. Both major political parties have demonised asylum seekers for political purposes with little regard for the damage to the asylum seekers themselves nor to the more compassionate strands of Australia's social fabric.
posted by cilia at 5:05 AM on August 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


"other European nations"?

(nitpickingtobepolite)
posted by MartinWisse at 5:11 AM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


It especially horrifies me that one recommendation is that boat arrivals will never be eligible to sponsor family members to later migrate to join them in Australia.

This is a nonsense, and I'd love to have every confidence it'll never be adopted.
posted by Wolof at 5:11 AM on August 13, 2012


Plan B - tell everyone about the spiders.
posted by elizardbits at 5:19 AM on August 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


It makes perfect sense even if you're not a bogan; if there is one place prosperous enough in this region to be humanitarian, advanced and clever enough to work out how to help these poor people driven to such desperate lengths to try and start afresh from nothing someplace else where we don't have to look at them; it's Australia.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:47 AM on August 13, 2012


It especially horrifies me that one recommendation is that boat arrivals will never be eligible to sponsor family members to later migrate to join them in Australia.

Is that new? Or was that one of Howard's old policies as well? I hadn't heard it before today.
posted by kisch mokusch at 5:55 AM on August 13, 2012


I seem to recall a former Liberal Party Treasurer imploring us "for the good of the nation" to not stop at two kids but to have three or even four so that our population levels don't drastically decrease as the population ages.

I guess he only wanted white babies, not brown asylum seekers.

There is only one policy that works - someone arrives in your country claiming asylum. You look after them, assess their claim and then either say "Welcome" or "Sorry buy no" and then you make the arrangements. Humanitarian responses are not convenient - that's the whole point. You hope that the conditions that caused the need for someone to jump on a boat change, but in the meantime you helP your fellow human beings.

Like we did with the Vietnamese refugees.
posted by awfurby at 5:55 AM on August 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


"other European nations"?

other, European nations.
I was going to link in some Italian stats and... got overwhelmed with the core issue.
posted by Mezentian at 6:00 AM on August 13, 2012


The so-called 'pacific solution' is touted as, ultimately, a solution to the 'asylum-seeker conundrum'.

There's certainly a conundrum afoot, but quite how anyone can discuss 'ultimate solutions' in polite or even semi-conscious company and get away with it is beyond me.

The 'solution' isn't finding legal loopholes to build a barbed wire fence in the oceans around Australia sillies.
posted by panaceanot at 6:00 AM on August 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Plan B - tell everyone about the spiders.

Problem: The Spiders of Deadly Death are a least worse option. Also, rape.
posted by Mezentian at 6:01 AM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Like we did with the Vietnamese refugees.

My understanding is that the way Fraser (etc) solved the Vietnam issue was to set up offshore processing, and allocate people in the region where they could be accommodated.

As much as I might find that a nice idea, I suspect the issues is that people are now coming from so many horrible places (Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Africa) it's harder to organise,
posted by Mezentian at 6:06 AM on August 13, 2012


For those of you who could swear you've heard the word "Bogan" before in slightly different context, allow me remind you that they were recurring antagonists in Keith Laumer's (satirical, witty, sexist, pulpy, Cold War diplomat/spy in space themed) Retief series.

Magnan nodded. "The Bogans have launched no less than four military campaigns in the last two decades. They're known as the Hoodlums of the Nicodeman Cluster. Now, perhaps, we shall see them breaking that precedent and entering into the cultural life of the Galaxy."

"Breaking and entering," Retief said. "You may have something there."

posted by tychotesla at 6:46 AM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Bogan were also the Sith.
True story.
posted by Mezentian at 6:52 AM on August 13, 2012


I thought Keith Laumer might have picked "Bogan" up from US Foreign Office work concerning Australia, but apparently it was only first recorded in an Australian text in '85 while Laumer started using it in '62.

posted by tychotesla at 7:01 AM on August 13, 2012


Like we did with the Vietnamese refugees.

My understanding is that the way Fraser (etc) solved the Vietnam issue was to set up offshore processing, and allocate people in the region where they could be accommodated.


According to this article in today's SMH:
After the communist victories in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in 1975, most refugees fled their homelands and found immediate refuge in such places as Thailand, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Indonesia. The overwhelming majority who were admitted to Australia arrived by air with identity papers and valid visas. Today the tendency is for people smugglers to advise their customers to destroy their identity papers before they arrive by boat without visas as part of a second movement from their temporary bases in Indonesia or Malaysia.
posted by kisch mokusch at 7:11 AM on August 13, 2012


I can tell you that but bogan was first used in Australia before '85.
posted by Mezentian at 7:20 AM on August 13, 2012


My opinion remains unchanged.
posted by flabdablet at 11:18 AM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you want to know more about the bogan culture, start here:
Even though he only had one tattoo I yearned him to fill the lonely hours between Dr Phil and days of our lives. as he approached me with his pasty white arms hanging out of a Nike vest,his smile told me it was dole day, and I knew my velour track suit would be hanging off the lampshade tonight. As I stood in line at centrelink, thinking up reasons why I can't work, a sweet smell drifted past my pig like nostrils. It was a mixture of weed, sweat and lynx Africa! I turned and there he was Dwayne, with his pants halfway down his arse,our eyes met and he was soon lifting me onto the wheelie bins behind the Rec Centre. He had already tied his staffy to a post in an alleyway so we would not be disturbed. There was a tramp watching but it did not bother us, just added to the mystery. I knew then that this was love and my life would never be the same again. I made a promise to him there and then that I would buy him a plasma with the baby bonus. [50 Shades of Mount Druitt]
posted by vidur at 1:34 PM on August 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


cilia: "I felt quite sad about this today. It especially horrifies me that one recommendation is that boat arrivals will never be eligible to sponsor family members to later migrate to join them in Australia. "

That's not actually true. Boat arrivals will still be able to sponsor family members under the Migration Act, but it won't be fast-tracked (sic) or supernumerary to the family reunion quota under the Act. Previous boat arrivals under 18 will be prioritised in the backlog of current applications.
posted by Kerasia at 4:19 PM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


The overwhelming majority who were admitted to Australia arrived by air with identity papers and valid visas.

Which, of course, is still the case. Approx 95% of asylum seekers arrive by air with valid travel docs, and are not subjected to mandatory detention - that applies only to "illegal" arrivals, ie those without passports & valid visas.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:04 PM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm glad you put those scare quotes around "illegal", a word that Abbott and his ilk never miss an opportunity to use in any discussion on asylum seekers, even if they have now switched to paying lip service to standards of public discourse by using the "illegal boat arrivals" weasel words in places where they would once have talked shamelessly about "illegal immigrants".
posted by flabdablet at 11:11 AM on August 14, 2012


I don't mean to derail, but as someone who has been attempting to migrate to Australia legally, I'm curious as to what would happen if I just flew to Australia on a tourist visa and asked for asylum.
posted by BrianJ at 11:42 AM on August 14, 2012


BrianJ - You will be taken to a detention centre where you will be assessed and unless you either: you will be deported.
posted by Kerasia at 3:48 PM on August 14, 2012


What Kerasia says is not true at all, unless the system has changed since I was a refugee lawyer.

People who arrived with passports & valid visas could apply for asylum & just continue living in the general community, ie no detention centres if they arrive legally. They'd get a bridging visa to keep them legal while the process of assessment is under way (can take a long time, especially as it involves at least a few months to put a paper application in to the govt department, then up to a couple of years to have the department's decision reviewed by the Refugee Tribunal, and possibly higher courts afterwards).

I can't remember for sure if the bridging visa automatically replaces whatever visa they arrived on, or whether it only applies once the original visa expires. The bridging visa had certain restrictions which I can't remember offhand, but they related to things like limited/no access to Medicare, limited/no rights to employment; that kind of thing.

I'm 99.99% sure that legal arrivals are still not subject to detention. Otherwise the detention centres would be overflowing & they'd be in every suburb. Like I said before, around 95% of asylum seekers arrive legally, eg on tourist, working or study visas.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:08 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


67 asylum-seekers drown trying to reach Australia by boat
posted by infini at 4:11 PM on August 14, 2012


Refugee Review Tribunal
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:12 PM on August 14, 2012


Pretty sure what UbuRoivas says is true.
I am sure the time before last, when talking with people far more engaged in this debate than I am, the number of "legal" arrivals who over-stayed their visas for whatever reason far exceeded the number of boat arrivals.

Even with the swelling of numbers, I am pretty sure that's probably still the case, and it's very hard to lock someone up in detention otherwise.
posted by Mezentian at 4:53 PM on August 14, 2012


After reading the report, the conclusions seem little more than a "what happens if you try turning it off and then back on" approach to policy making. Brilliants politics by Gillard, though. Abbott now has to support it. If it works, it neutralises the asylum seekers as an election issue. If it fails, then Gillard has a free hand to do whatever she wants and leaves Abbott to champion turning back boats as the Coalition alternative.
posted by kithrater at 5:19 PM on August 14, 2012


the number of "legal" arrivals who over-stayed their visas for whatever reason far exceeded the number of boat arrivals.

Absolutely.

Boat people << asylum seekers who arrive on legit visas then claim asylum << brits & others (eg backpackers or students) who arrive on legit visas but either work illegally (breaching visa conditions) or overstay.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:22 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I must say, anyone who hasn't watched SBS's latest version of Go Back To Where You Came From should give it a go.
It's fantastic.
posted by Mezentian at 4:02 AM on August 30, 2012


I found it slightly irritating, because it seems to be one of those shows that only serves to confirm your pre-existing beliefs.

For example, it just reinforced my views that Angry Anderson is a braindead bogan, and Peter Reith is in fact a robot.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:27 PM on August 30, 2012


Well, I enjoyed it.
And I'm even going to watch Insight tonight, although as I remember last series it was pretty much a waste of space.

Peter Reith as a robot does make sense.
posted by Mezentian at 5:26 PM on August 30, 2012


No no no no no. Reith is not a robot. Reith is a glove puppet.

Some days you can almost see the hand going up the back of his neck.
posted by flabdablet at 6:25 PM on August 30, 2012


« Older WIRED has been running a fascinating series: Olym...  |  Liam Brazier uses geometric sh... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments