Red News Readers,
Having just read Gillard’s speech, my view is that she seems to be trying to walk the middle path in the first part of the speech and then she lurchs towards Abbott with her East Timor processing centre. Why does she need this centre? She has Christmas Island and the onshore processing centres on the Australian mainland. East Timor I presume is in addition to what we have, not in place of? .
I agree with John Dowd who I heard on ABC 702 yesterday morning. He said that if the people that have recently arrived were white South Africans or white Zimbabweans, no one would be raising a murmur. But because they are brown and from Sri Lanka and Afghanistan there is a problem. John Dowd said this is racism. And it is, and Gillard should be ashamed that she is caving in to such forces in our community.
Mind you it is a good thing that she is not sending the Hazaras back to Afghanistan immediately. William Maley, an Australian National University expert on the Hazara, said in the SMH today: ”On the day Julia Gillard became prime minister, 11 Hazaras travelling in a vehicle in Oruzgan, the province where our troops are deployed, were waylaid by the Taliban and had their heads cut off.” He said it would be extremely dangerous to send any Hazara back to Afghanistan at present, and that no Afghan specialist in the world would say that the situation in Afghanistan is improving.
But pity the Sri Lankans. At the very moment that the EU is cutting off trade benefits to Sri Lanka because of the failure of its government to improve human rights, at a time when human rights organisations are reporting continued human rights abuses, Australia is planning to send vulnerable applicants for refugee and asylum seeker status back to Sri Lanka. Will Australians be satisfied when some, or god help us all of these returning refugees are imprisoned, or worse executed on their return? I hope Gillard, Abbott and those advocating their return can lie easy in their beds, because I can’t knowing what may very well happen to the Sri Lankans on their return.
Gillard on asylum seekers: time for an East Timor Solution
by Bernard Keane, Crikey 6.7.10
Australia will establish a revised “Pacific Solution”, with Prime Minister Julia Gillard flagging a “regional processing centre” for asylum seekers to be based in East Timor, to where asylum seekers who arrive by boat would be redirected as part of a “regional protection framework”.
In an address to the Lowy Institute this morning, the Prime Minister moved to establish a tougher line on asylum seekers by announcing her intention to pursue an East Timor processing facility with President Jose Ramos-Horta, the New Zealand government and the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees.
She also flagged that improved conditions in Sri Lanka now meant Tamil asylum seekers were likely to be sent home, and that negotiations were proceeding with the Afghan government on the repatriation of failed Afghan asylum seekers. Gillard also indicated unspecified measures to strengthen penalties for people smugglers whose actions lead to death, and committed to ensuring that successful asylum seekers would receive no “special treatment”.
Gillard explicitly denied that the proposed East Timor facility would be “a new Pacific Solution”, instead insisting it would be a “sustainable, effective regional protection framework”, but the difference with the Howard government’s approach of spending large sums of taxpayer money to send asylum seekers to locations such as Nauru for processing is unclear, beyond the promised involvement of the UNHCR.
The Prime Minister indicated that, in light of the UNHCR’s overnight report indicating a significantly improved security and legal situation in Sri Lanka, most Tamil asylum seekers faced being put on a plane back to their homeland if they attempted to reach Australia, although acknowledging that case-by-case determinations would remain. The present suspension of claims by Sri Lankan asylum seekers, put in place by Kevin Rudd just under three months ago, would be lifted.
The present suspension of processing of claims for Afghan asylum seekers would remain in place, but Gillard appeared to suggest this awaited the resolution of repatriation arrangements with the Afghan government. She emphasised that nearly three-quarters of Afghan asylum applicants had been refused in recent months.
Gillard also sought to address the persistent community myth that refugees are given extensive and special taxpayer assistance. “When newcomers settle in our community, they accept their responsibilities as members of the community — to learn English, enter the workforce, and send their kids to school like everyone else. Most refugees fulfil these obligations and are grateful to be able to make a new home in Australia … But the rules are the rules. We will ensure refugees shoulder the same obligations as Australians generally.”
What action this would entail remains unclear.
Earlier today, the opposition sought to further toughen its own stance on asylum seekers by indicating those who “deliberately destroyed” identity documentation would be denied asylum, an approach that appears unworkable given Australia’s international commitments and the practicalities of establishing “deliberate destruction” in the context of escape from brutal regimes and people smuggling.
The opposition also proposed to move the Minister for Immigration back into asylum claims processing, suggesting the minister be given the right to intervene in any asylum claim. The Secretary of the Department of Immigration would also be required to sign off on all asylum claim determinations, rather than lower level officials, although the power could be delegated.