tip off

Things left unsaid

Andrew Bolt, long a critic of Kevin Rudd “luring” asylum seekers to their deaths and costing us money, takes up the theme upon his return to Australia:

Some may die and all will cost

We may soon be back to where we were before John Howard got tough:

INDONESIAN authorities are bracing for a huge influx of boat people, anticipating as many as 10,000 asylum-seekers are waiting in Malaysia to transit through the archipelago and on to Australia.

And his commenters heed the call, quickly condemning the Government for failing to stop the flow of boats and lamenting the welfare system that (apparently) ensures that any boat person who reaches Australian waters will never have to work again.

Things in the source article that Andrew does not bother to mention include the following:

“It could be 10,000,” said senior commissioner Eko Danianto, head of the people smuggling unit at the Indonesian National Police.

“They comprise a mix of nationalities, not only Afghans. There are also Sri Lankan, Myanamerese (Burmese), Iraqis.”

On Saturday, Malaysian authorities arrested 36 Afghans and six Pakistanis being smuggled to Australia via Indonesia. On Sunday, a boat carrying 194 asylum-seekers, mostly Sri Lankans, was intercepted near Christmas Island.

Which fits interestingly with the UNHCR 2008 global trends report cited by Andrew Bartlett in today’s Crikey column:

The UNHCR’s global trends report for 2008 estimated “the number of people forcibly uprooted by conflict and persecution worldwide stood at 42 million at the end of last year.”

And things have got worse in the first part of 2009 with “substantial new displacements, namely in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Somalia.”

People on the move from Pakistan include many originally from Afghanistan who have already been waiting for years in insecure situations for it to be safe to return.

And Bolt also pays no attention to this information:

However an Australian academic, Dr Roslyn Richardson, of Charles Sturt University, has said asylum seekers know little about Australia before their arrival here.

Dr Richardson said strong deterrent messages from Australia did not cut through.

“People smugglers do not pass on detailed policy information,” she said yesterday. The asylum seekers knew little of Australia, let alone its immigration policies.

In her study, the reasons 27 refugees gave for coming to Australia centred on its comparative cheapness and accessibility.

The research contradicts Federal Opposition claims that policy changes last year led to a surge in boats.

Any individual case in which asylum seekers show knowledge of Australia is trumpeted by Bolt, but systematic research on the issue is overlooked.

The global rise in asylum seekers is a serious challenge and the Australian Government must play a role in addressing it, along with helping overseas law enforcement to combat people smuggling and prevent asylum seekers from being at further risk through dangerous boat travel. But as is all too common, Bolt selects the information he presents to his audience to give a slanted and oversimplified account of the causes and the solutions.

UPDATE: Today’s “Crikey Says” offers some analysis of the current global refugee crisis – and the political opportunity it might present those who want to play on fear.

15
  • 1
    GavinM
    Posted June 30, 2009 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Its always going to be a contentious issue I fear Tobias, there will always be some who see asylum seekers as nothing more than queue jumpers and they are the ones that articles like this one of Bolt’s will appeal to most.

    I find this point interesting though:

    “In her study, the reasons 27 refugees gave for coming to Australia centred on its comparative cheapness and accessibility.”

    It would be interesting to know where those 27 came from — I can’t imagine that people from Iraq or Afghanistan would consider Australia to be easily accessible. I can only guess they are probably from Sri Lanka or Burma.

  • 2
    monkeywrench
    Posted June 30, 2009 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    I await the news that Malcolm Turnbull is in possession of emails from the PM’s office inviting asylum-seekers to Australia……

  • 3
    Andrew Bartlett
    Posted June 30, 2009 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    GavinM:

    I don’t know where those 27 refugees sourced in the study are originally from, but I think the key word there is “comparative”. It also depends not just on where people are originally from, but where they find themselves. From some parts of Pakistan, it can still be more expensive to try to access a safe haven in Europe than Australia. Also, it can be easier and cheaper for them to access Malaysia, where they may also try to survive under the radar (as many Afghans do in Pakistan, or Iraqis do in Iran or Syria) for a while. When this becomes untenable or they start being targeted by authorities or criminals (assuming they or not one and the same) then they look to where they might be able to find safety on a more permanent basis.

    But most Iraqis trying to access a permanent safe haven still try their luck in Europe, as do the majority (although a smaller percentage) of Afghans.

    I think the key point is that we’re all in this together. If every developed country just tried harsher and harsher ‘barbed-wire wall’ approaches to asylum seekers, we’d just see greater desperation, greater cost to the asylum seeker, higher amounts of criminality from nastier people smugglers and far greater cost to taxpayers in developed countries. Much better that we try to develop a rational, systematic, balanced, just and cooperative approach with other wealthier countries, rather than think we can block everybody out and pretend everyone else will deal with it.

    If there are well over 100 000 asylum seekers and refugees in Malaysia already, all of that at risk of significant human rights abuses, how does Australia still try to say it’s everybody else’s problem?

  • 4
    Posted June 30, 2009 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    Good work, Tobias.

  • 5
    confessions
    Posted June 30, 2009 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    If every developed country just tried harsher and harsher ‘barbed-wire wall’ approaches to asylum seekers, we’d just see greater desperation, greater cost to the asylum seeker, higher amounts of criminality from nastier people smugglers and far greater cost to taxpayers in developed countries.

    Correct me if i’m wrong, but i thought I read in crikey(?) few months ago that even countries that do have very strict, “barbed-wire wall” immigration policies still get asylum seekers, and in much larger numbers than we do. The eg cited at the time was italy if my memory serves right. If that’s true then clearly tightening the locks even tighter will do nothing except to play to the peanut gallery that is the ill-informed and the ranting shock jocks.

    What annoys me about polemicists like Bolt is the careless and callous way the lives of some of the most disadvantaged people are used for his own ideological and political point scoring against the government, which at least has tried to make our immigration polices more humane. when did it become acceptable much less fashionable to seemingly take pride in such blatant disregard for other individual human beings?

  • 6
    bitpattern
    Posted June 30, 2009 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    A bit of topic but I’ve got an idea. If you can accept two premises – that the current Australian government is going to abide by the UN conventions on refugee’s and process asylum seeker claims on their merit if and when they arrive in Australian territory; and that it is a good idea to stop people smugglers from profiting off human misery – then why not take a harm minimisation approach and set up a diplomatic mission to process asylum claims of people who intend to head to Australia regardless? This would save the inhumane detention, it would cut back on people smugglers because it is easier for refugee’s to have their cae heard before they leave for Aus and you can be sure that the people smugglers DO get through are unlikely to have genuine claims so can be detained and deported without the need for as many legal cases before the courts. It would save a lot of bother and would b a political winner if it reduced to boat arrivals and would improve Australia’s human rights standing in the eyes of the international community. Not to mention that it would ease the burden of the overstrained refugee process, where the so-called ‘orderly queue’ that people are jumpin simply doesn’t exist because we don’t have the resources to process claims in the countries of origin (we don’t even have an embassy in Afghanistan, where a lot of the last wave of refugee’s came from), at least we can have them in the countries where claimants stop off. Sure beats putting otherwise innocent families in gaol indefinitely.

  • 7
    GavinM
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Hello Andrew,

    I agree that the barbed wire wall approach isn’t a satisfactory answer, as confessions points out, it doesn’t work for Italy — (pretty sure you’re right there confessions) — and although Howard’s Pacific Solution seemed to cut down on the flow of refugees reaching Australia, it was at a huge cost both financially to the tax-payer and to our image overseas, neither of which are desirable outcomes….Along with the trauma inflicted on those detained.

    I suppose the problem is in the processing of applicants to try and sort out who are genuine refugees and who aren’t — it seems to me that its essential to get this process over with and get those who are going to be allowed to stay settled into the community as quickly as possible, but it’s difficult to do this in many cases – particularly if those seeking asylum have no documents. How do we make this process more efficient ?

    Perhaps Bitpattern above, is on the right track with the idea of setting up missions in stop-over countries to process asylum seekers’ claims, although that would obviously be heavily dependent on the country involved co-operating, and would potentially create the problem of what happens to those who are rejected, I suspect if they are stranded in a country that doesn’t want them, they are likely to look towards people smugglers again.

    It seems to me that the major objection those who are anti-refugee have is that they come from vastly different backgrounds to Australia and therefore will never fit into our ‘culture’ – I’m not sure of what level of support they get now, but there should also be a comprehensive education and support program for successful asylum seekers, particularly for those who come from long term war-torn regions or cultural backgrounds that are very different to our own – such a program would hopefully make it easier for them to adjust to their new home.

  • 8
    DeanL
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    It seems to me that the major objection those who are anti-refugee have is that they come from vastly different backgrounds to Australia and therefore will never fit into our ‘culture’ -

    This is the mother-of-all non arguments that is repeatedly put forward by the anti-immigration, anti-refugee people.

    Given our “culture” is so worth protecting (and yes, I believe it is), it must be easily defined. So what is it? What are the key elements? Remember the Coalition’s pathetic and laughable attempts?

    The truth is, our culture is not a well-defined, static identity. It is a dynamic thing, constantly changing and adapting in accordance with those people that define it by who they are, what they believe in, what their values are, etc, etc. It isn’t the same as it was at any point in time in history and it won’t be the same again in any point in the future. It’s no wonder the majority of those that fear immigrants and refugees are conseratives. It’s these people that live their lives in fear of change and renewal that is the hallmark of life. It’s a huge irony to me that these are the same people that have no empathy for Aboriginals. These people were forced to undergo a huge culture shock that forever changed their course of history and decimated their culture. But they have no sympathy and no understanding of their plight.

    Not only that, culture isn’t something you can control. As soon as you try to do so, you change it and, I suspect, you degrade it. It’s very much subject to a similar principle to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle of Physics. And I’m not saying we shouldn’t exercise control over how many and who comes here. I’m just saying that, trying to justify selection based on who adheres to our cultural requirements is a load of hogwash that has its roots firmly based in the white Australia policy and other nationalistic nightmares.

    Immigrants won’t, don’t and shouldn’t have to discard their own cultural identity. They will do what comes natural to us and to every human being: retain what they value and take on the values of others that they judge to be worthy and worthwhile.

    If our culture is so valuable and so worth perpetuating, won’t it survive of it’s own accord? Or are these incoming people so inferior to us that they won’t be able to recognise its value and what it is? That’s the “racism” that’s really at the heart of the anti-refugee people – that and the fear that they’ll lose out somehow.

    Education programs and help? Yes all for that. Political indoctrination and “cultural whitewashing” disguised as education programs? No thanks.

  • 9
    DeanL
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    And, don’t get sidetracked by the difference between laws, systems of governments, etc and culture. If you don’t understand the difference and you don’t understand that the former is the untouchable (but not necessarily the unimproveable), whilst the latter is that which no one should seek to control, then you don’t understand the debate.

    In actual fact, if you think about it, non-control of culture, is what really makes “western” countries/nations “free”. Those that try to impose culture, in my opinion, are anti-freedom.

    Give us freedom of speech and democracy and culture will follow, no matter where the people that live under it come from. Yep, it’s that easy.

  • 10
    Andos
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    I wonder when the media will start comparing the numbers of so called ‘boat-people’ with what I’m going to call ‘plane-people’… or asylum seekers arriving in Australia by air. There are many-fold more plane-people than boat-people every year, but we never hear a word about it.

  • 11
    GavinM
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    “Political indoctrination and “cultural whitewashing” disguised as education programs? No thanks.”

    Can’t see anywhere where I suggested that – amazing what people will read into posts sometimes.

  • 12
    DeanL
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t accuse you of saying that, GavinM. Like you were, I am referring to the arguments or my perceptions of the arguments of “others”. If you want to avoid being misunderstood, as often seems to be the case with you, have the guts to put forward your own opinion and take ownership of it, rather than couching it in a “this is what some people think” style, e.g. It seems to me that the major objection those who….

  • 13
    GavinM
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    I wouldn’t have thought I’d be alone in not wanting to be misunderstood, perhaps you could coach me on how I should “couch” my language when I’m trying to express my perceptions of the arguments I’ve seen expressed by others, I’ve never professed to be a master writer so I’m happy to learn.

    I actually did put forward my own opinion, here’s what I said “….I’m not sure of what level of support they get now, but there should also be a comprehensive education and support program for successful asylum seekers, particularly for those who come from long term war-torn regions or cultural backgrounds that are very different to our own – such a program would hopefully make it easier for them to adjust to their new home.”

    Meaning, a program that would help them settle into Australia by teaching them the basic knowledge of day to day life that people already here take for granted, like for instance our laws, job seeking, schooling, agencies that can help them with various issues, even things that most of us don’t even consider like shopping in a Supermarket, etc…As I said I’m not sure what sort of help they get now, it may be that they do get this sort of advice, but I suspect if its like other government run projects its adequacy would be questionable.

    The first 3 paragraphs of my post were also my opinion.

    I’m sorry I misread your post, I thought you were insinuating that I was proposing some sort of brainwashing or program to force immigrants to forget their culture and heritage.

  • 14
    zoot
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    and although Howard’s Pacific Solution seemed to cut down on the flow of refugees reaching Australia,

    As refugee numbers around the world declined at that time do we assume the Pacific Solution was globally effective?

    it was at a huge cost both financially to the tax-payer and to our image overseas, neither of which are desirable outcomes….Along with the trauma inflicted on those detained.

    Too true. It was an unconscionably expensive policy.

  • 15
    GavinM
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    “As refugee numbers around the world declined at that time do we assume the Pacific Solution was globally effective?”

    Thats a good question Zoot, and not easy to answer – I guess all we can do is look at the physical numbers that arrived during that time but it would seem reasonable to assume that those numbers would be influenced by the overall numbers of refugees looking for asylum.

Womens Agenda

loading...

Smart Company

loading...

StartupSmart

loading...

Property Observer

loading...