We all know the situation by now.
People will take huge risks to travel to Australia by sea in order to lodge a request for asylum. Yes, they are queue jumpers as this will give them a better chance than the other poor saps stuck in refugee camps or countries of transit overseas.
But can you blame them for trying? Seriously, if you place yourself in their situation, wouldn’t you do the same for your family?
So, the only possible humane and ethical medium-term solution is a regional multi-lateral solution with every destination and transit country working together to ensure there are enough places within the region for legitimate refugees, that refugee camps are well-funded and safe, that processing of refugees are quick, efficient and accurate.
How likely is that?
In the meantime, the boats keep coming and people keep drowning.
The Australian government has chosen the well-trodden path of deterrence. So far, not working but I don’t actually doubt that it will eventually work. But is it ethical or humane? To say that the actual torture of real people now will likely save the lives of countless others in the future is pretty much an “ends justify the means” argument.
Why not go for a win-win? Why not show some leadership?
In order to break the people smuggler model, Australia must become the region’s refugee processing centre. To that end, the Australian government should provide boats at countries of transit to processing camps within Australia. The Australian intake of refugee numbers should be adjusted to ensure the clearing of the camps within a reasonable time. In time, we must also ensure that other countries within the region (such as NZ, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, China) have similar refugee placement programs. Coincidentally, each of the countries listed will soon be facing an ageing population problem.
Will it be expensive? No doubt. Can we afford it? Probably.
But the alternative is torture and discrimination. And how much of that can we afford?