Yet another realignment on refugee policy is rearing its head.
If the boats cannot be stopped or turned around, the rules must be changed. Senator Carr claims that the Labor government needs to change the process of assessing the status of refugees because an overwhelming majority of applications is approved.
“We’ve reached the view that as a result of court and tribunal decisions, it’s coming up wrong,” he said. “We need a tougher, more hard-edged assessment.”
Already we have seen Enhanced Processing morph into Accelerated Processing of Tamil asylum seekers whereby after a twenty minute interview without any advice, a Tamil asylum seeker is told that they will be sent back no matter what they say. With 20,000 asylum seekers whose claims have not even been assessed as a result of the “No Advantage” policy, a crisis looms.
Every Australian should be concerned when they see their elected government interfere in the rule of law and legislated processes in order to get the result they have decided is electorally desirable. This puts our democracy at risk. We have seen acceptance rates for Hazaras blatantly drop from 99% in 2009 to 30% in 2010 after political interference. The situation in Afghanistan did not change but the politics in Australia did because of increases in boat arrivals.
Senator Carr proposes to redefine the refugee determination process on the basis that those coming by boat are not eligible for a refugee status because “They’re not people fleeing persecution. They’re coming from majority religious or ethnic groups in the countries they’re fleeing. They’re coming here as economic migrants.” – (Concerns over Carr’s comments on tougher asylum policy -SBS)
The table below from the Immigration departments latest Asylum Statistics Australia provides the facts as to the countries from which asylum seekers coming by boat
However we have to look deeper inside these facts to see who and why people are coming from these countries.
We know that almost 98% of people from Afghanistan are Hazaras, a minority group – not a majority as claimed by Senator Carr – who have long been persecuted on the basis that they are Shia rather than Sunni Muslim and on the basis of their ethnicity. Their physical appearance is different from the other ethnicities which makes them a ready target.
The Taliban and majority Pashtun groups have targeted the Hazara people mercilessly including in widely documented and reported massacres. Nearly two million are living in Quetta, Pakistan and more than a million in Iran, having fled Afghanistan. Even in Quetta this year alone, their marketplace, mosque and girls schools have been bombed killing hundreds. In Iran they are exploited and deported to Afghanistan and live in fear. Hazaras are one of the largest groups of refugees throughout the world today according to UNHCR reports.
Iranians are increasingly arriving by boat to Australia. Many are Failli Kurds, Arab Iranians from Ahwaz, Christian and other minority religions as well as democracy protesters who tried to achieve fair elections by peaceful protest and who are now being picked up, imprisoned and tortured. The Iranian government is violently intolerant to the minorities groups who have lived there for centuries. Iran executes more people per head of population than any other country including China. Group executions in supermarket car parks in the early morning instil terror in the people who have protested or who struggle to abide by rules imposed by fundamentalist religious police and civilian militia, the Basiji where holding a girlfriend’s hand or a stray strand of hair from a scarf are crimes.
The asylum seekers coming by boat from Pakistan are mainly from Parachinar, a beautiful heavenly province now turned to hell by Taliban violence. Religious difference again has stirred the Taliban to attack the sons and daughters of the people because they are minority Shia and because they have refused to support them and allow their territory to be used to attack the coalition forces in Afghanistan.
Senator Carr may have stitched up a deal with Sri Lankan government and embassy to return the Tamil people who seek our protection. They can spin the lines of economic migrants as hard as they like but these cannot eradicate the scars, missing limbs, horrific petrol burns and seared souls of the Tamil people who seek our protection. Australia’s reputation will ultimately carry the shame of collaborating with the war criminals who are the Government of Sri Lanka. The people who risk their lives on the terrible boat journey from Sri Lanka do not do so lightly. The parents who send their children alone have no other choice in order to protect their sons and daughters from rape and violence of the soldiers in the military posts in their villages. Reporting attacks to the police will only bring more violence on the family. The Tamil people do not come from a majority religious and ethnic group.
Senator Carr knows that it is not enough to come from a persecuted minority in order to qualify for a refugee visa under Australia’s stringent refugee determination system. Our system is based on the international refugee convention which we signed on to as a good global citizen country. An asylum seeker has to provide the evidence that they were personally targeted or attacked and fear persecution as a consequence. A refugee visa is the hardest visa of all. Senator Carr deceives us with his nonsense about people coming by boat being economic migrants. When we look at the facts and evidence of who is coming to Australia and why they come, we see that the process finds not all, but over 90% of people coming by boat get visas because they are indisputably refugees not because Australia is soft.
Australian politicians have created their own albatross which now hangs about their necks heavily. They are flailing in the moral winds as they try to dispose of this stinking carcass they embraced so ardently. People arriving by boat holding up their arms and crying out ‘here we are – save us’ were never a threat. We can see them coming and as a nation we could easily manage their arrival with compassion and efficiency if the political leaders had not created the fear and loathing which now bedevils them.
The politicians and the people are stuck with “stop the boats” rhetoric unless and until some brave, principled leader arises to begin a new conversation. The Australian people also bear responsibility for the current morass in that we have succumbed so fervently to fetishism on boat arrivals. We will rent the fabric of our beautiful peaceful society asunder if we continue with the current paradigm.
Asylum Seeker Resource Centre
12 Batman st West Melbourne 3003
ph 03 9326 6066 / 0417517075
“AUSTRALIA. Built by boatpeople.”