Millions spent to persecute refugees

The federal government announced in its budget that $1.3 billion will be spent over six years "aimed at tackling people-smuggling and securing Australia's borders", the Australian reported on May 13.

This follows the interception of two more boats carrying asylum seekers by the Australian navy on May 5 and 11.

On May 5, a boat that "appeared to have run out of food and fuel and was in some danger of sinking", according to home affairs minister Bob Debus, was intercepted north-west of Broome. A week later, 31 refugees from Afghanistan were taken to Christmas Island when customs spotted their boat near the Tiwi Islands.

It brings the total number of intercepted boats this year to 12. The supposed increase, the government has openly admitted, is part of a "global trend".

"We therefore have to expect that there will be more boats in the immediate future", said Debus on May 6.

The government revealed its "solution" in the budget.

It will spend $654 million on patrol fleet upgrades and will boost maritime and aerial surveillance. The government also plans to strengthen "people smuggling" laws and, alarmingly, wants to"[bolster] Australia's presence in source and transit countries", said the May 12 Australian.

"A global spike in people smuggling activity around the world, including in Australian waters, means we need more resources to deal with this global problem", said Debus in a May 12 statement.

A further $685 million will be spent on "airport security" and "counter-terrorism" measures.

It is an offensive display of indifference toward the men, women and children who are slowly filling the remote Christmas Island detention centre.

There are now 454 people housed in the centre. Forty-five of them are children and recent reports have highlighted health concerns for a pregnant woman in detention.

The refugees have committed no crime. They have fled oppression and possible death and simply want to live a new life in safety.

The budget announcement closely followed the release of the federal government's 2009 defence white paper, which boasts Australia is a "maritime power". Money is being poured into the navy's preoccupation with intercepting and detaining, rather than welcoming, desperate refugees fleeing in boats.

Instead of spending millions trying to stop refugees from landing in Australia, the government should spend big to help them start a new life here.

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