FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Harshness Before Sense

by BINOY KAMPMARK

This is patently sinister.  Manus Island, in Papua New Guinea, is destined under the “regional agreement” between PNG and Australia to become an expanded detention centre which may house upwards of 3000 individuals.  (Shades of an Asia Pacific Gulag Archipelago come to mind.)  These individuals might well have been processed quietly through Australian channels by Australian authorities.  If it had been news, it should have been embedded in the back pages.  But this Labor government is desperate.  Very desperate. So much so that anyone without a visa who arrives in Australia will never (emphasis on the word never) settle in Australia.[1]

Those are the words of a “restored” Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.  Rudd has made it clear that the Refugee Convention, ratified in 1951 is an anachronism on stilts. Nothing new there – he parrots a long standing lament of wealthy states who would rather wish the convention might be done away with – or at the very least “revised”.

Much of this behaviour on the part of the prime minister is probably histrionics – to change the convention through the channels of the United Nations would require General Assembly approval.  Poorer states are unlikely to be joining richer states in attempting to curb global flows of individuals – for them, the richer the state, the greater the burden by necessity.

Hence, we face the next disturbing rationale.  If the convention can’t be changed, it won’t be heeded.  Naturally, one way of doing so is to re-label those who arrive in Australia in advance, a case of premature adjudication if ever there was one.  Ignore the refugee advocates and the professionals as much as possible – what would they know?  Foreign Minister Bob Carr has been most typical of this, claiming that those getting on boats and heading for Australia are “economic” migrants.

The response to Carr has been strident.  Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs has found little basis to the claim.  Former liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser is up at arms at the suggestion, calling Carr’s claims “total nonsense” and “fantasy”.  “I think a lot of people [who] might have felt some relief that Kevin Rudd was back in charge will now have that very heavily tempered by Senator Carr’s most intemperate remarks.”[2]

Applicants for asylum assessed and found to be legitimate refugees are entitled to stay in the country that duly processes them. To send them off shore, as it were, constitutes a violation of its principles.  It amounts, as some advocates have rightly noted, to an “outsourcing” of the burden imposed on a country.

Furthermore, let’s consider the country: developing, as close to, in structural and economic terms, a failed state as any in the Asia Pacific.  It is known for producing refugee applicants, not recipients.  The Australian Refugee Review Tribunal has actually granted refugee status to people leaving the country on grounds of persecution.  To speak of equitable “burden sharing” in this context, the term used by states in the European Union, is nonsense.

The “PNG Solution” will also be a disaster on another level. Not only will it violate a key principle of refugee law – that refugees cannot be sent to a place where they are put at risk – it will create another enormous social problem. Hundreds of Iranians, processed on PNG soil, is a recipe for social catastrophe.

As Marina O’Sullivan of the Castan Centre for Human Rights explains, domestic violence is rife.[3]  Ethnic tensions are ever present.  The “human rights” infrastructure is simply not in place.  Then there is that matter of the High Court, which found in 2011 that arrangements of this sort violated international refugee obligations.

Should he win the elections, will Rudd care?  This is hard to know given the distinct hollowness of Australian politics.  Australia is a land jam packed with regulations, controls and a mania for “security”.  Its electoral system, at least in so far as it determines the fates of governments, hinges on marginal seats in the outer suburbs – the “Rooty Hill” factor.  But this policy, unless it is challenged in the High Court, risks making Australia not merely an inept international citizen, but a callous one whose words at international law are empty sentiments rather than genuine policy.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 21, 2017
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Finance as Warfare: the IMF Lent to Greece Knowing It Could Never Pay Back Debt
CJ Hopkins
Goose-stepping Our Way Toward Pink Revolution
John Wight
Firestarter: the Unwelcome Return of Tony Blair
Roger Harris
Lenin Wins: Pink Tide Surges in Ecuador…For Now
Shepherd Bliss
Japanese American Internment Remembered, as Trump Rounds Up Immigrants
Boris Kagarlitsky
Trump and the Contradictions of Capitalism
Robert Fisk
The Perils of Trump Addiction
Deepak Tripathi
Theresa May: Walking the Kingdom Down a Dark Alley
Sarah Anderson
To Save Main Street, Tax Wall Street
Howard Lisnoff
Those Who Plan and Enjoy Murder
Franklin Lamb
The Life and Death Struggle of the Children of Syria
Binoy Kampmark
A Tale of Two Realities: Trump and Israel
Kim C. Domenico
Body and Soul: Becoming Men & Women in a Post-Gender Age
Mel Gurtov
Trump, Europe, and Chaos
Stephen Cooper
Steinbeck’s Road Map For Resisting Donald Trump
February 20, 2017
Bruce E. Levine
Humiliation Porn: Trump’s Gift to His Faithful…and Now the Blowback
Melvin Goodman
“Wag the Dog,” Revisited
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima: a Lurking Global Catastrophe?
David Smith-Ferri
Resistance and Resolve in Russia: Memorial HRC
Kenneth Surin
Global India?
Norman Pollack
Fascistization Crashing Down: Driving the Cleaver into Social Welfare
Patrick Cockburn
Trump v. the Media: a Fight to the Death
Susan Babbitt
Shooting Arrows at Heaven: Why is There Debate About Battle Imagery in Health?
Matt Peppe
New York Times Openly Promotes Formal Apartheid Regime By Israel
David Swanson
Understanding Robert E. Lee Supporters
Michael Brenner
The Narcissism of Donald Trump
Martin Billheimer
Capital of Pain
Thomas Knapp
Florida’s Shenanigans Make a Great Case for (Re-)Separation of Ballot and State
Jordan Flaherty
Best Films of 2016: Black Excellence Versus White Mediocrity
Weekend Edition
February 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Rogue Elephant Rising: The CIA as Kingslayer
Matthew Stevenson
Is Trump the Worst President Ever?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Flynn?
John Wight
Brexit and Trump: Why Right is Not the New Left
Diana Johnstone
France: Another Ghastly Presidential Election Campaign; the Deep State Rises to the Surface
Neve Gordon
Trump’s One-State Option
Roger Harris
Emperor Trump Has No Clothes: Time to Organize!
Joan Roelofs
What Else is Wrong with Globalization
Andrew Levine
Why Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban?
Mike Whitney
Blood in the Water: the Trump Revolution Ends in a Whimper
Vijay Prashad
Trump, Turmoil and Resistance
Ron Jacobs
U.S. Imperial War Personified
David Swanson
Can the Climate Survive Adherence to War and Partisanship?
Andre Vltchek
Governor of Jakarta: Get Re-elected or Die!
Norman Pollack
Self-Devouring Reaction: Governmental Impasse
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Destruction of Mosul
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail