Canberra asylum policy ignores human cost
A refugee advocate says the ends of Canberra's asylum seeker processing policy do not justify the means.
The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre has accused the Australian Government of fabricating a crisis over asylum seekers.
This follows comments by the Immigration Minister Scott Morrison hailing the government's policy of offshore processing of asylum seekers as a success.
Mr Morrison says there has been only one unauthorised ship to reach Australia in the past nine months, compared to around 800 boats in the previous five years.
But the Resource Centre's Pamela Curr told Ged Cann that you have to consider collateral damage - the human cost on asylum seekers detained - before declaring it a success.
PAMELA CURR: What Australia has done is basically close the door. We take a very small number of people from Indonesia. If we offered asylum to those found to be refugees and brought them to Australia, flew them to Australia - we would replace the boat traffic. We'd replace the risk of people getting into these boats. And we would provide a formal mechanism for asylum seekers to get protection.
GED CANN: So in your opinion, the ends do not justify, in any way, the means?
PC: No, I would say that the ends to this campaign cannot be justified. I would go further and say that the Australian government fabricated a crisis in that some thousands of people were arriving by boat. Now certainly, it was a larger number than we had ever received. But it in no way compares to countries such as the Middle East or Europe where they are receiving regularly hundreds of thousands of people seeking protection from persecution. Australia's problem, because of our geographic location has always been minimal. And we have to contextualise the arrival of 5,000 people against the fact that we bring in two hundred thousand migrants every year in order to keep our economy going. So, we are not talking about a number that we could not manage. And so, having fabricated this crisis, in the minds of the electorates, and divided the nation on it, they then fabricated a crisis management plan which was the use of military force against unarmed asylum seekers. This is in direct contravention to all the conventions - the human rights conventions, to which Australia is a signatory. And as a middle range, we would like to think, civilised country, we have behaved in a very uncivilised way to vulnerable people.
GC: What do you think the impact of this policy is going to be on Australia in the long term?
PC: I am very concerned for the long term consequences because Australia is - we're a nation of migration. We're a nation of many peoples from many parts of the world. Until now, we have successfully managed to see our common humanity and to work together. What we are in danger of doing is destroying that cohesion, that community solidarity and turning ourselves against ourselves.
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