Zimbabwe crisis exposes refugee hypocrisy

Issue 

Zimbabwe crisis exposes refugee hypocrisy

Australian politicians are falling over themselves to offer refugee status to wealthy, white plantation owners displaced from their properties in Zimbabwe by supporters of President Robert Mugabe.

On April 21, Prime Minister John Howard declared, "We are always ready to give a helping hand to people who face persecution in their own country, and the situation in Zimbabwe is despairing to say the least".

The leader of the Australian Democrats, Meg Lees, responded immediately, "I welcome the prime minister's openness to calls for Australia to offer safe haven to the Zimbabwean farmers".

On April 24, Western Australian premier Richard Court urged Canberra to welcome white Zimbabweans. He said that white farmers would "fit" well into Australia's agricultural industries and would be a "huge asset" to WA.

Immigration minister Philip Ruddock said on April 24 that the Australian government had contingency plans to offer refugee places to Zimbabwean farmers if the situation in the country deteriorated.

But the enthusiasm of Australia's capitalist politicians to welcome refugees from Zimbabwe does not extend to the hundreds of black farm workers who have been burned out of their homes by Mugabe's thugs, seen their meagre possessions destroyed or looted, been assaulted and had their lives threatened, and been forced to abandon their appallingly paid jobs.

Statement after statement from mainstream politicians has studiously avoided any suggestion that poor black Zimbabwean workers should also be made welcome, let alone acknowledge that they are in far more urgent need of assistance. Meanwhile, wealthy white farmers are almost begged to come here.

The hypocrisy is stunning.

"We are always ready to give a helping hand to people who face persecution in their own country" — as long as they are rich or white, and preferably both.

Ruddock has even floated the idea that white Zimbabweans would not have to comply with the harsh "temporary safe haven" visa conditions that applied to those fleeing genocide in Kosova and East Timor. The latter were forcibly bundled onto jets and dumped back home at the earliest possible opportunity — jobless, with few possessions and forced to live amongst smoking ruins.

Similarly, the white Zimbabweans won't be forced to suffer the same treatment meted out to Iraqis fleeing Saddam Hussein's oppressive regime or Kurds seeking relief from Turkey's war, or Afghans fleeing the reactionary Taliban regime. All of these people are detained in remote outback detention camps and refused the right to apply for permanent refugee status.

Iraqis, Afghans, East Timorese, Kosovars and many other persecuted peoples, according to our capitalist politicians, obviously do not "fit" in and cannot be a "huge asset" to Australia. Could that be because they are not rich or white enough?

Who said the "white Australian policy" was a thing of the past?

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