Even by the standards of the Australian Labor Party this minority government’s treatment of asylum seekers is, to say the least, bizarre, brutal and racist.
The government under Prime Minister Julia Gillard, is pursuing a policy which would have asylum seekers, including children and adolescents, “processed” in Malaysia, despite the fact that the High Court has declared this would be illegal.
In an attempt to force through its “Malaysia solution,” Gillard plans to change the Migration Act – and is pleading with the Opposition leader, Tony Abbott, for support.
The organisation, Chillout, [children out] said, “The Prime Minister is trying to change the laws so unaccompanied refugee kids can be deported to situations of human rights abuses …
Have we fallen so low that we make laws that allow us to abuse children – some are orphans and many are fleeing horrible persecution?”
At present newly arrived asylum seekers are quarantined offshore on Christmas Island, which is closer to Indonesia than Australia.
Refugee support groups are demanding that the process take place on the Australian main land, free of detention.
When the Liberal-National Party coalition was in government it imprisoned asylum seekers on the tiny, remote island of Nauru in the western Pacific.
Most refugees to Australia are from the Middle East and fly first to Malaysia or Indonesia. Under the so-called Malaysia Solution 800 asylum seekers on Christmas Island would be deported back to Malaysia and Australia would accept 4000 Malaysian refugees over four years.
Around 100,000 refugees are trapped in Malaysia. The Refugee Action Coalition says that less than 10 per cent were resettled in 2009. Some have been waiting for 20 years, and all are forced to live in impossibly difficult conditions and there is widespread abuse.
It describes Malaysia as “a human rights pariah which is not party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and is regularly criticised by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
“It has not signed the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, which is intended to guarantee refugees fundamental rights.
“Refugees are subjected to arbitrary arrest and deportation back to the persecution that they fled. Even UNHCR-recognised refugees are subject to harassment and beatings by the authorities, and live in poverty and fear.
“When convicted of immigration offences, a refugee is liable for five years’ imprisonment, a $US2915 fine, and whipping or caning.”
There have been 34,923 instances recorded since 2008.
Why is the Labor government determinedly pursuing its barbaric “Malaysia solution?”
Because it is desperate to hang on to power and is pursuing the right wing, redneck vote by showing it is even tougher than the Opposition on “border protection”.