by MIA FREEDMAN
It’s been a depressing, dispiriting and dehumanising week for those who care about refugees and their legal right to seek asylum in Australia – no matter how they arrive.
While most people agree that people smugglers are immoral opportunists and nobody wants to see asylum seekers risking their lives by coming here on boats, there have been developments this week that can only be described as heartless and shocking.
Firstly the government announced that genuine refugees arriving by boat will be given non-working visas that mean they will be unable to seek employment or support themselves for up to five years.
This from The Conversation:
Bridging visas will be issued to refugees who have been processed onshore, as part of the “no advantage” principle recommended by the Houston expert panel in August this year.
Immigration minister Chris Bowen said the sharp increase in asylum seeker arrivals meant it would not be possible to process everyone offshore. Refugees on the visas will not be allowed to work until they have waited as long as they would have had they been processed on Nauru or Manus Island. They will be able to access limited welfare benefits from Centrelink.
Bowen said refugees processed onshore could still be moved to detention on Nauru or Manus Island at a later date.
Then the coalition announced they would seek to reduce the intake of refugees from camps by 6,000.
This from the ABC:
Mr Abbott has pledged to return the quota to just 13,750 – a move that is estimated to save the budget $1.4 billion over the forward estimates – arguing that the extra places are sending the “wrong message” to people smugglers.
“Under this Government, those positions are increasingly being filled by the people who are coming to this country illegally by boat,” Mr Abbott told AM.
“We need to send the strongest possible message to the people smugglers and their clients that the game is up, we will not be dictated to by criminals.
“We will not allow ourselves to be played for mugs by people smugglers.”
Finally, Amnesty International visited Nauru and described the facilities – where we have sent asylum seekers to be processed – as “distressing” and noted the “terrible spiral” of mental illness, self harm and suicide attempts. They said that some of the detainees being held in Nauru still had shrapnel in their faces from conflicts they had fled. The Lucky Country, are we?
What about compassion for the incredible human suffering we are perpetuating on vulnerable people? A ”terrible spiral” of self-harm, hunger strikes and suicide attempts.
Do you support either party’s stance? Whose policy solution do you think is best? Do you think an agreement on this issue will ever be possible?