Australia's response to asylum seekers

The 'Pacific Solution' didn't work, and now Australia is trying the 'Malaysian Solution'. Under the Malaysian Solution, signed on 25th July 2011, Australia is once again out-sourcing its obligation to aid and help people seeking asylum. The agreementmeans that the next 800 asylum-seekers arriving in Australia by boat will, within 72 hours of their arrival, have their bio-metric data recorded and be flown to Malaysia. In return, Australia will allow 4000 people, who have already had their application for refugee status approved by the UNHCR, to move to Australia over the next four years. The deal is a knee-jerk reaction to xenophobia and a bid for the get tough on refugees vote. It also hopes to appease the more liberal left by appearing to 'save' 4000 people lost in the twilight zone of Malaysia's refugee population. But the deal is nothing more than Australia reneging on its responsibility to help – in Australia – people seeking asylum. Currently Australia doesn't have a good track record for the way it treats refugees arriving there. In 1992 Australia introduced mandatory detention for asylum seekers, then in 2001, as part of the 'Pacific Solution', several parts of Australia (including Christmas Island) were excluded from the Australian migration zone. This meant that for a person's claim for asylum to be heard in Australia, they had to either arrive by air or avoid Australian navy patrols and set foot on the continent. If they were caught at sea, or landed on any of the outlying islands, they could be detained indefinitely or transported to a third country for processing1. Australia is one of the only so-called 'western countries' that has a policy of mandatory detention and also a belief that they can pass the buck and arrange for other countries to deal with people seeking asylum on its shores. The effects of these policies on people are tragic; on Christmas Island guards now carry knives to cut down the people attempting to hang themselves2. Just this year, there has been a significant increase in the the number of people committing suicide and hurting themselves3. There has also been more mass protests in many of the detention centres. According to main stream media, much of the protest has apparently been in response to the fear and uncertaintity surrounding the 'Malaysian Solution', but a lot of it is on-going protest at the inhumane and unfair treatment of refugees in Australia. The government's responses to these protests included separating some people out and sending them to federal and state prisons rather than detention centres, to fire tear gas and 'non-lethal' ammunition at protestors, to lock-down some of the centers and, it begs the question why this was not done years ago, the Immigration Department announced that it had decided to run family movie nights and to organise English lessons at Christmas Island detention centre in an effort to alleviate tension4. Of the protests, the Federal Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, said that “This sort of activity is completely inappropriate, it is way out line with the expectations of the Australian people.5” He shows no insight into the inappropriateness of locking people up, and no understanding of the effects of indefinite detention on the more than 6500 people6 currently detained in refugee detention centres. Mandatory detention must end, and the Malaysian Solution must be scrapped. 1 2 3 4 5 6