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

More articles by:

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

February 19, 2018
Rob Urie
Mueller, Russia and Oil Politics
Richard Moser
Mueller the Politician
Robert Hunziker
There Is No Time Left
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Decides to Hold Presidential Elections, the Opposition Chooses to Boycott Democracy
Daniel Warner
Parkland Florida: Revisiting Michael Fields
Sheldon Richman
‘Peace Through Strength’ is a Racket
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Taking on the Pentagon
Patrick Cockburn
People Care More About the OXFAM Scandal Than the Cholera Epidemic
Ted Rall
On Gun Violence and Control, a Political Gordian Knot
Binoy Kampmark
Making Mugs of Voters: Mueller’s Russia Indictments
Dave Lindorff
Mass Killers Abetted by Nutjobs
Myles Hoenig
A Response to David Axelrod
Colin Todhunter
The Royal Society and the GMO-Agrochemical Sector
Cesar Chelala
A Student’s Message to Politicians about the Florida Massacre
Weekend Edition
February 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
American Carnage
Paul Street
Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don
Andrew Levine
Had Hillary Won: What Now?
David Rosen
Donald Trump’s Pathetic Sex Life
Susan Roberts
Are Modern Cities Sustainable?
Joyce Nelson
Canada vs. Venezuela: Have the Koch Brothers Captured Canada’s Left?
Geoff Dutton
America Loves Islamic Terrorists (Abroad): ISIS as Proxy US Mercenaries
Mike Whitney
The Obnoxious Pence Shows Why Korea Must End US Occupation
Joseph Natoli
In the Post-Truth Classroom
John Eskow
One More Slaughter, One More Piece of Evidence: Racism is a Terminal Mental Disease
John W. Whitehead
War Spending Will Bankrupt America
Robert Fantina
Guns, Violence and the United States
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Latest Insulting Proposal: Converting SNAP into a Canned Goods Distribution Program
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Zaps Oxygen
John Laforge
$1.74 Trillion for H-bomb Profiteers and “Fake” Cleanups
CJ Hopkins
The War on Dissent: the Specter of Divisiveness
Peter A. Coclanis
Chipotle Bell
Anders Sandström – Joona-Hermanni Mäkinen
Ways Forward for the Left
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Winning Hearts and Minds
Tommy Raskin
Syrian Quicksand
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Still Tries to Push Dangerous Drug Class
Jill Richardson
The Attorney General Thinks Aspirin Helps Severe Pain – He’s Wrong
Mike Miller
Herb March: a Legend Deserved
Ann Garrison
If the Democrats Were Decent
Renee Parsons
The Times, They are a-Changing
Howard Gregory
The Democrats Must Campaign to End Trickle-Down Economics
Sean Keller
Agriculture and Autonomy in the Middle East
Ron Jacobs
Re-Visiting Gonzo
Eileen Appelbaum
Rapid Job Growth, More Education Fail to Translate into Higher Wages for Health Care Workers
Ralph Nader
Shernoff, Bidart, and Echeverria—Wide-Ranging Lawyers for the People
Chris Zinda
The Meaning of Virginia Park
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail