So Australia has recommenced the relocation of asylum seekers to Nauru. I know this for a couple of reasons; for one thing, it was all over the news because the Labor party, after trying several unsuccessful attempts at implementing a useful asylum seeker policy, decided that reverting to the Pacific Solution, which they revoked upon gaining power for no other reason than because it was the Liberals who instigated it, is actually probably our best bet at the moment. That was big news, because it was a major backflip for the Gillard government and also because the Greens started yelling, screaming and crying like petulant children about it. That’s what they do most of the time, particularly when they aren’t getting things their own way.
The other reason why I couldn’t possibly have missed it is because my Facebook news feed is full of posters, memes and highly emotive slogans, some with Amnesty International branding, others with cuttingly original meme fonts from my left-leaning activist friends, informing me that my country should be ashamed of itself, that human rights are being ignored and that it isn’t illegal to seek asylum in Australia, even if arriving by boat.
A quick qualifying disclaimer: I generally support the work of Amnesty International, and make monthly financial contributions towards the important advocacy work they do. But as for the small platoon of extremely loud so-called activists jumping up and down on Facebook (don’t ask me how that metaphor is supposed to work), I really only have one piece of advice.
SHUT THE HELL UP.
The Pacific Solution is not now nor has it ever been about stopping asylum seekers, or limiting immigration, or denying anyone their human rights (Also, since when is travelling to safety in Australia from Indonesia, which is also safe, a human right?). The Pacific Solution is about putting a stop to people smuggling.
The point is to mitigate the “pull factor”. That is, Australia is awesome and everyone agrees, so naturally people want to come here. This creates a market for those who would exploit either people’s desperation or opportunism, and transport them to our waters by boat, at exorbitant prices and in inhumane and unsafe conditions. A strategy like the Pacific Solution mitigates this pull factor by putting the word out that if you get on one of these boats, you don’t end up in a house in suburban Adelaide, you end up on an island in the middle of nowhere (some might be tempted to argue that this could be preferable to Adelaide). A very nice, tropical island I’m told, populated by some really friendly locals, a bunch of significantly less friendly immigration officers and a few other applicants who are ... ahem ... in the same boat as you. But yeah, it’s in the middle of the freaking Pacific Ocean.
“But… Waaaaaaaaaah we like refugees” say the activists. Of course they do. Everyone likes refugees. That’s why we want to stop them coming here in dodgy boats that have the nasty habit of sinking and killing everyone on board. Everyone agrees we should take refugees in. Well... everyone worth listening to. The problem with the activists’ position is that, typical of lefties all over the world, they’re far too concerned with maintaining the status quo and never really stop to think of the plight of the little guy. PEOPLE ARE DYING! But I suppose that’s not as important as “standing up for human rights” and feeling all morally smug because we’re pro-refugee.
They shouldn’t have to come here in boats anyway. If I had my way (I usually don’t, but you don’t hear me whinging like a union rep. about it), here’s what would happen.
Phase 1) Anyone arriving by boat is taken to a processing centre on the moon (Apparently Nauru is already full) to have their claims verified. There should be a statute of limitations on it; like if there’s no evidence either way that you are who you say you are and your home is definitely not fit for you, then some kind of arbitrary decision gets made by some sort of tribunal with some sort of guidelines and you are either released into Australia, repatriated or (voluntarily) shot into space. None of this detention for six years rubbish. That sucks.
Phase 2) Round up all the 747s Qantas can spare, and start an officially sanctioned shuttle service from UNHCR refugee camps on the borders of places like Pakistan and Sudan express to Ozenkadnook, Victoria (just because it’s a really funny name). It might be a little expensive, but I’m sure Qantas would be happy to sponsor the initiative. They’re the spirit of Australia after all. Anyone whom the UN has granted refugee status gets a free trip to Australia, an invitation to a welcome barbeque (note: we’ll need to figure out which ones will and won’t eat what kinds of meat), a backyard cricket match and vouchers for free English classes.
Now, this might be a problem because, if the spruikers who have at me in the shopping centres are to be believed, the UNHCR is a little short of resources and manpower on the ground in those places. Okay…
Phase 3) Train up and send out a thousand or so Australian aid workers specifically to target the camps and aid the UN workers in the processing of refugee status claims. It might not be so easy to convince workers to go out there and live in a refugee camp. Let’s pay them a million dollars each for a two year contract. That should be enough to make sure we get a good selection of quality applicants. A half a billion dollars a year is probably a lot to spend, but then how much are we planning on spending for an internet connection that’s faster than the one we already have?
Phases 2 and 3 might be a ways off yet, but facing an issue like people smuggling requires a long-term commitment. It can’t be dismissed with flash-in-the-pan schemes. And it sure as hell can’t be defeated with political posturing, emotive yet vaccuous sloganeering or (least of all) internet memes.
Last I heard, the plans for a lunar detention centre were still in the concept development stage. But the point is we need to stop the damn boats. For those who need it, finding sanctuary in Australia should be easy, and shouldn’t require anyone to risk their life on a floating (well…) death trap.
It is morally unthinkable for us to continue to allow people to be hoodwinked into drowning in our waters.
Even if they arrive by boat.
Garry with 2 Rs