A Third World country suffering rising violence, rapes, political corruption and plagued by endemic diseases such as cholera and malaria will be the new dumping ground for Australia’s refugee arrivals.
Kevin Rudd’s July 19 announcement that Australia would immediately start sending all new boat arrivals to be detained, assessed and resettled by — or repatriated from — Papua New Guinea will lead to myriad human rights violations.
The “Regional Resettlement Arrangement” between Rudd and PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill would be in place for at least the next 12 months, and there is no cap on the number of refugees Australia can send.
Rudd’s refugee betrayal sparks protests
Those found to be genuine refugees would still be barred from resettlement in Australia, and new assessment processes would deport more people with less right to appeal and due process.
In exchange, Australia would fund so-called health and education reforms, in addition to a recent pledge to send 50 Australian police to PNG to “tackle crime” after armed soldiers attacked a hospital.
Rudd has also started an international campaign to weaken the refugee convention, which makes up a large part of the moral and humanitarian backbone of the refugee rights movements globally.
The plan goes further than anything an Australian government has carried out since boatloads of refugees fleeing imperialist global conflict began arriving. It promises the displaced and brutalised people of the world that: “If you come here by boat without a visa, you won’t be settled in Australia.”
Violating the Refugee Convention — that forbids discrimination against refugees on the basis of how they arrive — and expelling them to a nation that is also subject to Australia’s colonial power is a move that exposes the barbaric core of imperialism.
Australia is part of the rich-world fortress, which forces most of the world’s people to live in poverty and subject to exploitation and military terror. Most of the global conflict underway today is the result of this system, and so is the relatively small number of people that resort to take risky vessels to Australia.
No amount of promises to resettle “refugees that have been languishing in camps for years” can reconcile Rudd with any notion of upholding human rights. It is essentially a move to try to beat Liberal leader Tony Abbott at his own filthy political game.
One thing Rudd said was right. The refugee crisis is growing worse globally and more people are being forced into seeking asylum by any means necessary.
First World countries like Australia are growing increasingly reluctant to shoulder humanity’s calamity because it is a direct result of capitalism’s systematic exploitation and brutalisation of the world.
The numbers making it to Australia are still tiny compared with the rest of the world. But the government is now, in effect, bribing a neighbouring poor country to accept the legal, moral and humane obligations that are categorically Australia’s. PNG has no chance of providing a safe new home for refugees, and the move will lead to disaster.
Seeking asylum by boat is not a crime. People have a human right to seek asylum and be resettled in Australia. There are policies that can be implemented straight away that would reverse this spiralling descent to the bottom.
All refugee supporters need to stand up and show their outrage at what Rudd is doing because other countries are watching Australia to see if they can get away with it as well.
The Socialist Alliance supports:
• Ending Australian support for and participation in all imperial wars and occupations.
• Implementing a foreign, trade and aid policy that puts people’s needs before corporate greed. An example is what is being done in Latin America through ALBA.
• Ending Australia's rogue climate nation status (which contributes to global warming and the subsequent displacement of millions of people) and begin the phasing out of coal and other fossil fuels. The technology exists, it is affordable and will create useful jobs.
• Closing the offshore and onshore asylum seeker detention camps, ending mandatory detention and using the billions paid to Serco (the multinational security firm that runs these camps) to fly in the desperate refugees in Indonesia and Malaysia who are trying to get on the boats. Also stepping up efforts to resettle refugees from UNHCR camps around the world.
• Fully respecting and implementing Australia's obligations under the UN Refugee Convention.
[This is a statement released by the Socialist Alliance on July 20.]