Thursday, August 10, 2006

Fortress Australia

It's done - all refugees arriving "illegally" in the country will be "processed" offshore. People are recognised for what they are - statistics to be handled by the system.

The legislation was passed the legislation passing by 78 votes to 62 despite some members of the government crossing the floor. This all appears to be due to Indonesian complaints about asylum being granted to 43 West Papuans feeling persecution. See here for example for information on human rights abuses in that country.

Furthermore, the UNHCR states:

"would be an unfortunate precedent, being for the first time, to our knowledge, that a country with a fully functioning and credible asylum system, in the absence of anything approximating a mass influx, decides to transfer elsewhere the responsibility to handle claims made actually on the territory of the state."

emphasis mine. Australia helped set precedence on women's voting rights (behind NZ I think), now we are setting precedent in an unfortunate manner. That's understatement an Australian would be proud of.


"even more worrying in the absence of any clear indications as to what might be the nature of the envisaged offshore processing arrangement. If it is not one that meets the same high standards Australia sets for its own processes, this could be tantamount to penalising for illegal entry".

While UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis sympathises with the interest in detering people smugglers, like UN sanctions in Iraq the smugglers who suffer nearly as much as the desparate.

See the full UNHCR briefing here.

Exodus 22.21 has (NASB) "You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt". Given unless you are Aboriginal you are a stranger in a sense in Australia, it strikes me as applicable. Not that I expect good theology from our Prime Minister.

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