Tag Archives: refugees

Saturday salon 12/8

1. Made in Australia by the Turnbull government

The Liberal Party Has Overwhelmingly Decided To Keep Its Plebiscite Policy, so because the Senate again failed to pass the necessary legislation, we are off to a $122 million postal vote, which is really a voluntary survey to be conducted by the ABS, if the High Court lets them.

Except, we already know what the people think, because they’ve already been surveyed, and people who know about these things say that the proposed survey is incompetent as a survey, lacking proper sampling. Of course, the opponents of same sex-marriage see this as their best chance of getting a “no” vote and kicking the can down the road.

Peter FitzSimons asks, How did the Liberal Party get into such a mess? Continue reading Saturday salon 12/8

Dumb deal

On a superficial level I agree with President Trump that it was a “dumb deal” for the US to accept asylum seekers warehoused by Australia in Nauru and Manus Island. We should have brought them to Australia long ago.

What is scary is how Trump and his administration handled the whole thing. Via Bloomberg, this is the scene in his office:

Continue reading Dumb deal

UN has a plan for a plan on refugees

Malcolm Turnbull was at the historic UN Summit on Refugees to tell everyone about our world-class effort, though it is doubtful world leaders took very much notice. Australia has unique circumstances, and thankfully, unique solutions. What we may see as our badge of honour, others may see as our badge of shame. Anyway, undaunted by UNHCR estimates of a burgeoning number, reckoned in 2015 at 65.3 million people displaced from their homes, the UN announced The New York Declaration, enunciating principles, promising aid, and plans to conclude a global compact on refugees and immigration in 2018.

Within hours, says Deutsche Welle:

    A UN aid convoy in Syria was bombed, leaving 12 aid workers dead; Kenya is closings the world’s largest refugee camp in Dadaab, pressuring refugees to return to Somalia; and one of the main points of arrival for refugees in Europe, the Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesvos, is burnt down…

Continue reading UN has a plan for a plan on refugees

Saturday salon 5/5 (late edition)

1. Midnight Oil to burn again

Midnight Oil, led by the former Hon. Peter Garrett, Minister for the Environment and Minister for Education, are returning to a high-ticket priced venue near you.

Simon Tatz says:

    Once again, we’ll witness the gangly mantis, this time just plain old Pete Garrett, belt out songs condemning American military imperialism, condemning the loss of Indigenous land rights and noting that beds, as well as pink batts, keep burning. Continue reading Saturday salon 5/5 (late edition)

Is the political ground shifting in Germany?

Before the three state elections in Germany on Sunday, March 13 many saw Angela Merkel’s CDU party in for a rough ride because of her policies towards Syrian refugees.

After the election many of the headlines were similar to this one from the NYT: Setback for Angela Merkel as Far Right Makes Gains in Germany. A closer reading presents a more complicated picture. Continue reading Is the political ground shifting in Germany?

Cologne: what happened and where to from here?

A Deutsche Welle report I heard on NewsRadio began along these lines:

    She was pulled to the ground by her long blond hair, then a man laid down on top of her.

An extensive investigation by Der Spiegel tells us that groups of men humiliated, sexually assaulted and robbed women around the main railway station in Cologne on New Year’s Eve. What happened was not new and was not limited to Cologne. What was different was the scale, the presumed predominance of men from North Africa amongst the perpetrators, and the timing in relation to the dilemmas faced by the influx of refugees from Syria. Continue reading Cologne: what happened and where to from here?

Europe’s dilemma over refugees

Two articles have come my way which may be of interest to people trying to come to grips with the refugee situation in Europe. First:

Overall while there have been some protests and violent attacks, the German people have been welcoming. As leader, Angela Merkel has been very firm: Continue reading Europe’s dilemma over refugees

Turning back boats – only by agreement

Turning back asylum seeker boats can only be done legally and ethically, in my view, with the agreement of transitional countries, such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. Unfortunately the form of the decision made at the ALP conference makes clear that the ALP would seek to act without such agreement. Continue reading Turning back boats – only by agreement

Saturday salon 23/5

1. Child sexual abuse

The Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse continues to amaze, this time with the horrific abuse in the Diocese of Ballarat. At the same time we find that the Catholic Church will continue to use the so-called Ellis defence, whereby it can’t be sued for compensation because it does not technically exist as a legal entity. Continue reading Saturday salon 23/5

Abbott’s Cambodia solution

Australia has signed an agreement to resettle refugees held in Nauru to Cambodia.

It may be Abbott’s but it is not a solution. The numbers will be negligible.

Cambodia’s Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said his country wants to take far fewer refugees than expected after an initial pilot program that could involve only a handful of people.

“It would be 20 or 10 or 50 or 100 or something like this. Not 1000 as people have said,” Mr Khieu Sopheak told the Phnom Penh Post.

Only people willing to go will be shipped to Cambodia.

Long Visalo, secretary of state at Cambodia’s foreign ministry, told journalists that before refugees slated for resettlement on the Pacific island of Nauru are selected, Cambodian officials will go there to brief them on the country’s difficulties and traditions.

Cambodia is one of the world’s poorest nations.

“We will explain to them about Cambodia … the country is like this or this, a lecture for them and then they will decide if they want to come or not,” he said.

Cambodia certainly is poor ranking 183rd in the world in terms of per capita GDP. While a signatory to the UN convention Cambodia currently hosts only 70 refugees and 20 asylum-seekers. It has not always been exemplary in the treatment of its own minorities.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison told RN’s AM that four or five would be resettled at first. It seems altogether possible that volunteers will be found given the horrific stories coming out of the Nauru detention centre:

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said women inside the centre were regularly required to strip and exchange sexual favours with guards so they could have access to the showers.

She said there were also allegations children had been forced to have sex in front of guards at the centre.

The UNHCR is not happy. They are deeply concerned at the precedent set by the Cambodian agreement:

“This is a worrying departure from international norms. We are seeing record forced displacement globally, with 87 per cent of refugees now being hosted in developing countries. It’s crucial that countries do not shift their refugee responsibilities elsewhere,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres. “International responsibility sharing is the basis on which the whole global refugee system works. I hope that the Australian government will reconsider its approach.”

UNHCR has consistently advocated for asylum-seekers to have their claims assessed and to benefit from protection in the territory of the State where they arrive, or which has jurisdiction over them.

“Refugees are persons who are fleeing persecution or the life-threatening effects of armed conflict. They are entitled to better treatment than being shipped from one country to the next,” Guterres added.

Meanwhile the UNHCR has identified some 3.2 million Syrian persons of concern. The 7.30 Report paints an even gloomier picture:

It’s over 6 million who are internally displaced, approaching to 7 million people, and over 3 million who have fled over the borders – and, of course, these are known numbers. There’s always some leeway with this but we know of at least that many people. So it’s a severe humanitarian crisis.

The UNHCR are looking for another $1.8 billion to deal with the Syrian refugee problem. Abbott might give a damn if he’s honestly concerned about humanitarian issues.

Asylum seekers returned directly to Sri Lanka?

SRI LANKA NAVY SPECIAL BOAT SQUADRON

Refugee advocates and the Tamil community are increasingly concerned that a boat load of 153 Tamil asylum seekers has been handed over the the Sri Lankan navy.

There was regular contact with the boat from last Thursday to last Saturday morning, when communication ceased.

On Thursday the boat started leaking oil. On Friday they were almost running out of water and some of the younger people were not well. One adult also was “facing some physical conditions”.

The Government is refusing to comment on whether the boat even exists.

Daniel Webb, Director of the Human Rights Legal Centre, says that if refugees are returned directly to the place they are fleeing from without their claims being processed there can be no clearer breach of our obligations under the Refugee Convention.

The fact that the boat may be in international waters has no relevance. The idea that the asylum seekers’ claims could be assessed in transit is ludicrous.

Turning boats back to Sri Lanka is completely different to turning them back to Indonesia, which is a transit country and as such not the source of the fear of persecution or worse.

The Guardian says that:

Sri Lankan asylum seekers are subject to the “enhanced screening process” in Australia, which has been condemned by the UNHCR as an “unfair and unreliable” process for determining refugee claims as it involves short interviews, often without the presence of a lawyer.

But

In October, Morrison said he was “completely comfortable about the process”, adding: “If you’re coming here to try something on to get access to Australia from Sri Lanka, you’ll go straight back.”

Surely asylum seekers would not be subject to ‘enhanced screening’ in transit!

The Sri Lankan high commissioner in Canberra said he had not been informed by the Australian government of the boat’s existence and hence he was in no position to comment.

The boat actually departed from India and the nationality of all on board in unclear. India is not a signatory to the refugee convention.

The image above is from AAP courtesy of SBS who report that the Sri Lankan military says it’s unaware of any arrangements with Australia to return asylum seekers.

From the SMH on Monday:

Ian Rintoul, of the Refugee Action Coalition, said it had become apparent that Australia had intercepted the asylum seekers.

“It has been 48 hours and under Scott Morrison’s own rules he would have had to announce there had been an incident at sea by now, so you can assume they have been taken off their boat.”

More generally, I reported last week, the Government is introducing new rules for assessing asylum seekers:

  • People arriving without travel documents will be refused protection visas unless they can provide a “reasonable explanation” for not having identification.
  • A lower threshold for assessing harm to returning asylum seekers who have sought complementary protection, where the chance of harm is more than 50%.
  • Asylum seekers who have arrived by boat will be refused visas unless the minister determines “it is in the public interest to allow them to do so”.

As SBS highlights, this means that asylum seekers facing a 49% chance of death or torture could be sent home. Surely the cross bench in the Senate will vote the legislation down.

While it is too early to rush to judgement in the case of the Tamils, Scott Morrison never ceases to appal so nothing would surprise.

Morrison_Sowhothebloodyhellareyou _500

I’m not sure of the source of that image which I had on file, but it has the title Sowhothebloodyhellareyou!

What Business Spectator thinks of our refugee policy

On Maundy Thursday, the Business Spectator lead story was this telling article on the Rudd/Abbott refugee policy by Rob Burgess.  The article starts with:

As many Australians prepare for a holiday marking the most important Christian festival of year, it’s worth remembering that Jesus of Nazareth began life as a refugee, taken to Egypt to escape King Herod’s slaughter of male infants.  

The refugee family eventually went home, so there was no need to transfer the infant to an offshore detention facility – I mean, who’d even think of doing that?”

 And ends with:

While the nation spends a long weekend celebrating the life of the world’s most famous refugee, political leaders might take time to sniff the wind again and realise we’re standing out in our region for all the wrong reasons.

As Fraser sums it up: “Whatever else our refugee policy is, it isn’t Christian.”

In the middle there was a well argued article with useful supporting data that included:

“In years to come, people will look back at the Abbott Government’s practice of locking innocent children up on remote Pacific islands and shake their heads with disbelief,” said Hanson-Young on Wednesday.

It may not take years. Other nations, including key trading partners, are already shaking their heads at Australia’s offshore processing regime…….

” At this year’s human rights dialogue between China and Australia, vice-minister of foreign affairs Li Baodong said China had concerns “especially on the protection of refugees and asylum seekers, the right of the children of refugees in education and other rights … We have also asked about whether these refugees will be illegally repatriated to other countries….”

While the Greens have long used moral arguments to condemn Labor’s and the Coalition’s policy, economic and strategic concerns give added weight to opprobrium from our trading partners.

Recent history shows how quickly a latent dislike of Australia can become manifest – the fury on the streets of Indonesia during the recent phone-tapping scandal was fed by negative stereotypes of Australians that stretch back through the 20th century.

Not only are we remembered as the lucky country that ran the white Australia policy, but our political leaders of the past have (often unfairly) been seen as colonialists seeking to impose a Western order on peoples who, from their own domestic perspective, were throwing off the shackles of a colonial past.

Whatever the roots of our negative image within the region, Australia’s national interest lies in the paring away of stereotypes, not augmenting them with stories of babies flown to Pacific Island prisons.”

Think about how those who used to be excluded by the White Australia policy must see us now:  Here is a country getting all agitated about 18,111 protection visa applications from boat people in 2012/13 despite having a strong economy and an estimated 2013 net immigration of 234,000.  A country that claims to be all about a fair go but thinks its OK to send refugee children to concentration camps in breach of a refugee convention that Australia signed.  A country where both Abbott and Rudd are very public, white Christians being nasty to refugees who mostly aren’t Christian and who would have been blocked from entry under the white Australia policy.

Having an Attorney general who has stated that it is “OK to be a bigot” doesn’t help either.

Progress is being made whenever an important, Murdoch owned business blog is saying, in effect, that our refugee policy is not only non-Christian but also bad for business and our relationship with our neighbours.

Enjoy your Easter.

Appendix:  Refugee Council of Australia’s data on Australia’s refugee performance compared with the 10 best countries:

Graph for Australian self-interest through Asian eyes