Isn’t it funny how the best humanitarian outcome is seen as a government defeat? (See PM concedes defeat in asylum stand-off ) It could have been so different, with government leadership taking a principled stand rather than letting the opposition, a fear frenzied section of the population and empire building bureaucrats seize control of the discourse. What many of us have been advocating all along – community based processing of refugees regardless of how they arrive, is now more likely to become the default standard for a while. Let’s hope asylum seekers are not punished by freshly conceived draconian measures as a result.
… but I fear it’s not time to break out the champagne yet.
My feeling right now is one of relief at expectations vindicated. The Malaysia deal was immoral even before it was illegal. Today’s High Court decision that effectively prevents the government from proceeding with the Malaysia refugee swapping deal presents at least one occasion where Australian law reveals, or at least, syncs with, a moral underpinning.
I have another feeling of trepidation. What next? Today’s decision could not have been unexpected by Immigration. What irons do they have in the fire for Plan B and Plan C that may yet erode the basic human rights for asylum seekers to have their claims heard in a country that has endorsed the UN Refugee Convention?
Or will the unimaginable occur – that our political parties will clear the decks and engage some creative, compassionate and sustainable collaboration in working out a way forward in dealing with the issues that have led to a world refugee surge? Stranger things have happened!
(Map shows signatories to the UN Refugee Convention in green)
- High Court sinks Malaysia deal (heraldsun.com.au)
- Malaysian swap deal ruled unlawful (news.theage.com.au)
- Court sinks Malaysia asylum deal (theage.com.au)
- Asylum Seekers “at risk of persecution in Malaysia” (godsmustardseed.com)
- Australian High Court rules Australia cannot send asylum seekers to Malaysia – Washington Post (news.google.com)
Why can’t our government get it right with asylum seekers who arrive by boat?
The lawfulness of the disgraceful Malaysia deal is being tested before the full bench of the High Court today.
This morning’s headlines in the West Australian were like a breeze of fresh air through the stench of indifference and acrimony that usually surrounds this issue. A group of eminent Australians representing, among other professions, business and the arts, have called for a rethink of the detention strategies, advocating minimum holding for security and health checks and release into the community while asylum claims are ascertained. More humane, less expensive, win-win. They echo recent representations made by senior officials in Immigration to their political masters.
But how does our government respond ? “Let’s build floating detention centres.” Have they completely lost the plot? What kind of blinkered thinking seeks to take us back to the time Britain used floating hulks to imprison its burgeoning underclass. The irony is that when this strategy became unwieldy transportation to the great south land was deemed the solution. That’s right – they were sent out here as “boat people.” Go figure! Granted these $150 million vessels are intended to deliver intercepted asylum seekers swiftly to unnamed off-shore locations – but really?
I guess things have to reach the zenith of the point of ridiculous before uncommon common sense can break through.
The High Court of Australia has several interesting cases before it right now.
I’ve already pinpointed the challenge to the federally funded School Chaplaincy Program.
Rocking the boat is a very succinct article on the current injunction to halt the Malaysia refugee swap scheme on the basis that the Australian government does not have the power to enact it.
Our legal system often gets sledged because it tends to operate in a rarified atmosphere – indeed justice is never so blind as when it fails to deliver the verdict we think is right. However both these cases show how, in the High Court at least, this “second tier of government” protects us from the emotions of the zeitgeist and political opportunism.
The outcomes of both these cases will leave some parties unhappy. At least it won’t be personal!
There is an unsound mythology surrounding Australia-bound asylum seekers that is taking a few hits this week. Tonight SBS will screen the final episode of its three part series, Go back to where you came from. There has been much conversation around my neck of the woods as folk from all walks of life have been responding and identifying with the six “pilgrims” seeking or avoiding the truth of the well-beaten refugee path.
The media is also slowly chipping away at the so-called Malaysia solution that consigns 800 hapless arrivals to Malaysian detention in exchange for 4000 “proven refugees” for resettlement in Australia. Information continuously seeps out, such as Malaysia-bound detainees ‘denied medical care’ – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), contradicting government spin on how altruistic this arrangement is.
Online petitions are hitting social network sites and indications are that there is a surge of support for a more humane policy with regard to “irregular maritime arrivals.” Time will only tell when those in power judge it politically expedient to revert to more humane policies.
Constant dripping wears away the stone.
You get to the place where you feel you can write nothing more about the shameful asylum seeker detention regime – especially when long-standing champions of advocacy plead that even the Nauru strategy is preferable to the latest sleight of hand involving Malaysia.
It seems that we have to move even closer to the edge of ridiculousness for even the most crowd pleasing politicians to wake up to the fact that they are participating in the theatre of the absurd. Thank God for and NGOs and church agencies that are able to keep sounding a constant drumbeat on how human beings should be treated.