The Saturday Paper December 13 2014 in an article about a threatened Afghan family, under the subheading Morrison’s new power, recorded: “In the early morning hours of Friday, December 5, while much of Australia slept, the senate passed its final bill for 2014. It was a bill containing dramatic alterations to immigration law, and it transferred unprecedented power to minister Scott Morrison. ………….The new Australian immigration law expunged reference to the 1951 Refugee Convention, to which we are signatory. It was not an official revocation of the convention, but may effectively be as much. The convention was written in the wake of World War II and the failure of states to accept those escaping genocide. “
This legislation, passed with the support of sufficient members on the crossbench, has been trenchantly attacked by Australians concerned with protecting human rights and the rights of refugees to sanctuary from persecution. Changes to the Migration Act allow Scott Morrison to send asylum seekers back to the place from which they have escaped, even if they are in danger of torture or death. This is expressed as “clarify the availability of the removal powers independent of assessments of Australia‘s non-refoulement obligations.” Refoulement means sending them back to mortal danger. It also removes most reference to the Refugees Convention and replaces them with “a new statutory framework which articulates Australia’s interpretation of its protection obligations under the Refugees Convention.” Under Scott Morrison we can only imagine what sort of “protection” he will offer.
Australia is thus turning its back upon international conventions which have been accepted by all Australian governments since the end of the war against Nazism.
What has horrified millions of people here in Australia and overseas, is the way children in detention were used as a bargaining tool by Morrison. In the article cited above, Michael Brull pointed out: “As the Senators noted, Scott Morrison could have freed these children any time he wanted. He chose not to. He then chose to use the children as leverage to extract political concessions. That is, he told other politicians that unless they voted the way he wanted them too, children would suffer. That sounds a lot like a ransom. It also sounds a lot like terrorism – the threat or use of force against civilians to achieve political goals.”
Our national government appears to be losing its moral compass. As human beings in a democracy, where we all participate in choosing who rules us, we must remain true to our values and not be swayed by propaganda or emotion. Islam certainly has a clear stand on this issue. The UNHCR issued a statement on the issue 20 November 2012 , which stated in part:
“Islam requires believers to assist and protect vulnerable people and offers a number of
mechanisms for their care and support. According to Islamic migration law (hijrah), individuals have the right both to seek and to be granted asylum in any Muslim state. Furthermore, it is the duty of Muslims to accept and protect refugees for as long as they seek protection. In comparison to modern refugee law, hijrah offers a broader definition of a refugee, and gives individuals, rather than states, the right to determine asylum. However, despite its significance in Islam, hijrah is rarely invoked by Muslim states today. The promotion of Islamic teachings on refugees could encourage Muslim states to widen their acceptance and protection of refugees.” [http://www.unhcr.org/50ab90399.html]:
Given this stance, we expect Muslim states to care for asylum seekers. Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iran and Pakistan have huge numbers of refugees, and are making a real attempt to fulfill their responsibilities as Muslims. Europe is also accepting huge numbers of refugees but Australia appears to want to separate itself from this international situation. Mistreatment and what amounts to torture of the oppressed is hardly a policy which will raise Australia’s international prestige or bring about a solution to the crisis. It places a heavy responsibility on those who understand the enormity of what is occurring, to work for change.
December 2014 Al Wasat Bilal Cleland