Ignoring whether the humanising (I refuse to use the phrase ‘softening’) of Australia’s previous shameful draconian detention and TPV laws have resulted in a new surge of people arriving by boat, the little I’m watching and reading of the public debate depresses me.
I just cant see how people arriving in Australia can be termed refugees. Refugees, IMO, are people fleeing for their lifes seeking safety in a neighbouring country. The key term is neighbouring. The obligations of neighbouring countries is quite clear – you have to take them in.
The people who’ve been arriving recently are from Afghanistan and have spent a considerable amount of time in the relative safety of Indonesia. If they have arrived in Australia because all bridging countries from Pakistan to India, to Malaysia to Indonesia have pushed them back out to sea, Australia needs to be exerting pressure on those bridging countries while taking in the refugees and treating them humanely.
But from my reading, this just isnt the case. Most of the arrivals here have achieved physical safety and in many cases have spent years living in some of these bridging countries. So, if these people are trying to escape the refugee camps where they have relative safety and are seeking to live in Australia because of the nice life here, then they are not refugees, they are economic immigrants arriving illegally.
This is not to say that Australia should not help bridging countries and share the load of refugees that are being created internationally. Australia must! But it has to follow a controlled process.
So, what’s my policy suggestion? It’s this – people who arrive in Australia via bridging countries where they are safe should be returned immediately to those bridging countries. No ifs – no buts – no lengthy legal process. This should be via bi-lateral agreement and both countries must have agreed to this and have recognised procedures for dealing with it so that refugees are placed in humane and safe conditions within those bridging or neighbouring countries. Australia must then liberalise the refugee load sharing with those bridging countries and take in more people but on a formal recognised way.
In this way, jumping on a boat is just pointless but Australia still fulfills its humanitarian and international obligations and responsibilities. IMO, it’s only through increased international cooperation that this tide of desperate people be helped.