Resettlement is the way out of detention mess

Resettlement is the way out of detention mess

Robert Manne – The Age – 19 January 2016
“As in my opinion and experience, most Australians would not inflict grievous suffering on innocent human beings for no reason, what needs to be explained is why as a people we are willing, in full knowledge of the facts, to refuse to settle these people in Australia and to tolerate their destruction in body and in spirit.
“The principal answer is surprisingly straightforward. Between 2009 and 2013, 50,000 asylum seekers arrived on Australian shores by boat. On their way to Australia another thousand drowned. Officials in Canberra, both major political parties and the overwhelming majority of the Australian people, believe the sacrifice of those now on Nauru and Manus Island is justified in order to prevent a return of the boats. What is so terrible is that the logic underlying this argument is so easily shown to be false.”
“It is clear that for the foreseeable future no Australian government will return to the kind of policies that saw the arrival of 50,000 asylum seekers during the Rudd and Gillard years.
“Equally, the belief that the asylum seeker boats will return if Canberra softens any element of present policy flies in the face both of historical evidence and of reason.
“But while these mindsets dominate our asylum seeker debate, the lives of the refugees on Nauru and Manus Island will continue to be slowly destroyed.
“To save the 1500, compromise between the supporters of the asylum seekers and the supporters of current policy is now desperately needed. In practical terms, this will involve both gradual re-settlement in Australia of those now on Nauru and Manus Island, and the retention of turnback and the mothballing rather than the closing of the offshore processing centres.
“In ideological terms it will involve something even more difficult to imagine: a rhetorical truce between the entrenched camps of Australia’s bitter, 15-year-old asylum seeker culture war.”

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Detention times at record levels under Turnbull

Asylum seeker detention times blow out to record levels under Malcolm Turnbull

By Nicole Hasham – SMH – 12 January 2016

“The time asylum seekers spend in Australian detention centres has blown out to a record high under the Turnbull government, leaving men, women and children languishing behind wire, facing an uncertain future.

“The latest statistics from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection show that in December, people in onshore immigration detention had been there for an average 445 days. In November, the figure was 446 days.

“The average detention period has increased steadily since May last year and is now the longest since the government took power. It is more than double the 200-day wait four years ago under the Labor government.

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“Of the 1792 people in detention, 91 were children and most were from Iran, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, China, Vietnam and Afghanistan.”

“The longer periods in detention come at a massive cost to taxpayers. The government’s mid-year economic and fiscal outlook last month budgeted an extra $588 million over four years, largely to cover “slower than forecast processing” of asylum seekers in Australia and offshore, leading to higher-than-expected detention centre populations.”

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The Long Journey To Nauru

The Long Journey To Nauru

Julie Macken in New Matilda – 12 January 2016

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“30 years ago, it would have been unthinkable to Australians that they would lock up men, women and children without charge, in conditions likened to a concentration camp. And yet, here we are. In this special feature, Julie Macken charts the course that made Australia an international pariah for its treatment of the world’s most vulnerable people – those seeking asylum.”

“We need to do three things. First, grant amnesty to all those currently held on Nauru and Manus Island and bring them to Australia. That’s less than 2,000 women, children and men.”

“Second, cancel the contracts for Transfield and Wilson Security and begin the diplomatic, legal and financial work necessary to implement a safe, secure and long-term regional solution. This means redirecting the billions of dollars currently being spent on Nauru and Manus Island to meaningfully resourcing the UNHCR in Indonesia and Malaysia.”

“Third, Australia needs to increase its intake of refugees from these newly resourced assessment centres in Indonesia and Malaysia.”

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The reflections in this quote from the article are worthy of consideration.  

“It is worth noting the government’s frame has never been meaningfully challenged by a systematic, resourced and informed counter-narrative. For instance, in contrast to the refugee movement, the environment movement has spent the past six years putting serious financial resources into a national communications strategy that challenges the political, cultural and economic hegemony of the coal industry, with some outstanding successes. Unfortunately, the refugee movement continues to forgo the alliance-building work necessary for such an approach with the result that the narrative stays firmly in the grip of the major political parties. Indeed, both Labor and the Coalition argue the policies have been successful. The boats have essentially stopped coming to Australia and therefore people are no longer drowning at sea … … …

Those concerned about Australia’s treatment of refugees and asylum seekers need to get smart about creating a counter narrative to the current story of fear, distrust and inhumanity. By changing the frame to one of shared humanity, success and courage, it becomes harder for politicians from both major parties to get political mileage out of brutalising them.”