Bitter irony department

28 Sep

Our experienced government (you know that one, of course) knows what to do with people attempting to flee Burma. Because they didn’t go through channels and choose to rot in one of the overcrowded refugee camps on the Burmese border, but were silly enough to try to come to Australia, you may well ask, “What happened to them?” You guessed it. Nauru:

THE Immigration Department has revived using Nauru Island for its Pacific Solution policy by transferring seven Burmese refugees there.

The seven had been held on Christmas Island, but were moved to Nauru on Sunday, the Immigration Department said yesterday. An eighth Burmese refugee who has been detained on Christmas Island remained behind because he is in hospital, but would be sent to Nauru later, a spokesman said.

“It is longstanding government policy that anyone arriving on an excised place will be sent to Nauru,” he said.

The Burmese group were transferred to Nauru, even though two other asylum seekers, who have been detained longer, were not moved.

The other two asylum seekers, a Palestinian and an East Timorese man were also caught outside Australia’s migration zone. But the spokesman said it had not been “worthwhile” to reopen Nauru for one or two people. The Burmese group would now be denied access to Australia’s legal system as a result of being outside Australia’s jurisdiction, he said.

Members of Burma’s Rohingya ethnic minority, they include one asylum seeker who has told of being jailed for more than a year for opposing his nation’s military junta.

Nauru had agreed to accept them, and had issued them special visas while their refugee claim is processed — either by the department or by the International Organisation for Migration, which runs the Nauru detention camp on behalf of the Australian Government. The spokesman confirmed that the camp’s new occupants would be locked up for the time being.

He said the department was still waiting to hear back from ASIO on its re-assessment of its previous security assessment that led to two long-term detainees remaining on the island — one is now living in the community and the other currently in hospital in Australia.

The department’s spokesman said the cost of keeping the Nauru centre open was $33.7 million (2004-05 figure). From July to December last year when it was empty, the cost was $14.9 million. — The Age September 19, 2006.

Now go and read the Oxfam report Counting the cost of unaccountable pacific solution. Oh we do care about human rights, don’t we?

See also A Just Australia, the Jesuit Refugee Service, Refugee Action Committee Canberra and probably not interesting.

There are times when Andrew McGahan’s dystopic thriller seems almost accurate! 😦 He can’t be accused of failing totally to capture the spirit of too much of contemporary Australia, the government not least.

To follow recent developments on those Burmese “non-legal non-humans” (whatever the cant term now is) see Asylum seekers want applications processed under Australian law (The World Today – Friday, 25 May , 2007), Australia silent over fate of asylum seekers in Nauru (Radio Australia 6 September, 2007). I believe, but haven’t been able to confirm, that they have subsequently been sent to America. Meanwhile, on a related matter, see Father Frank Brennan’s The impact of leaky asylum boats on the Federal Election in Eureka Street (20 September, 2007) where he adds a note of qualification to bitter assessments like this entry.

…The Howard government’s Pacific solution was enacted because it was thought that even those boat people successfully claiming refugee status would never make it to Australia. But 95 per cent of them have eventually made it to Australia or New Zealand. They have just had to wait up to an extra five years. The justification for the Pacific solution has been the need to deter refugees from engaging in secondary movement by employing people smugglers.

This justification came horribly unstuck when the government tried to extend the Pacific solution to Papuan asylum seekers who would be engaged in direct flight without people smugglers. Bruce Baird, the leader of the backbench revolt in August 2006 on the extension of the Pacific Solution, told Parliament that the New Zealand government would no longer take refugees from Nauru if Australia tried to apply the Pacific solution to all boat people. The Pacific solution is incoherent and it will go if Kevin Rudd is elected Prime Minister…

It is important to give credit where it is due. The Howard government has increased the size of our migration program, including the refugee and humanitarian component. The Rudd opposition has consistently opposed the Pacific solution and the unfortunate consequences of the temporary protection visa (TPV). Courageous Coalition backbenchers have heeded the call to end long-term detention of children.

At this election, there will be some people who will vote against the Howard government because of the appalling Pacific solution and the ongoing effects of the TPV. Hopefully there will be fewer people voting for the Howard government because of policies like the Pacific solution. The deliberations of civil society might even make a difference in the policy formulation of the political parties and the people’s choice of government, providing a fair go for all refugees, including those who arrive by boat without a visa. Along with many other matters, this election will decide the fate of the 72 proven refugees now required to wait on Nauru.

NOTE: On Burma see Democratic Voice of Burma.

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Posted by on September 28, 2007 in Current affairs, immigration, Kevin Rudd, News and Current Affairs, Politics


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