Thursday, July 29, 2010

Human Flotsam and Jetsem


Today a boat filled with 85 asylum seekers was picked up off of Ashmore Reef by the overtaxed Australian navy. This is the 150th boat to arrive since the Labor government took office and removed the strict approach to these boat people by the previous Howard Coalition government. Still, the Labor government can't come to terms with this influx and manage it effectively. Prime Minister, Julia Gillard still spitefully resists the logical choice to agree to the most obvious solution; sending these folks to the previously built detention centre on the island of Nauru by Howard for processing by the Immigration Department.

It takes roughly seven days to sail from the southern shore of the Indonesian island of Java to Ashmore Reef, a low-slung speck of Australian territory surrounded by turquoise waters. Such relatively short distances to a country long seen as a safe haven are what drew thousands of asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Iraq to Indonesia the past few years. But it was not Jakarta they were bound for; it was Sydney. Of those who made it to Australian territory, many by boat but actually many by air (on tourist visas....then claiming asylum) around 2000 were granted asylum. But most refugees never see the southern continent's coast. Instead, they end up in places like the immigration detention centre at Tanjung Pinang, a town on Bintan Island, just over 2 hours by air from Jakarta. It is the largest of 15 such centres spread throughout the Indonesian archipelago; it can hold up to 600 detainees at a time. The facility has some comforts--there are regular doctor visits, TVs, a volleyball net and three filling meals a day. But a poor country like Indonesia can ill afford to spend much on meals and amenities so they are provided and paid for by the Australian government with the help of the International Organization of Migration.

As the numbers trying to transit through Indonesia to Australia have risen, so have tensions between neighboring states over who should be responsible for them. "Indonesia has not signed the 1951 International Immigration Treaty, so has no laws distinguishing asylum seekers from illegal immigrants", says J. Frelick of Human Rights Watch, "they are political pawns. The idea that you would provide asylum to a person who is considered an enemy of another country is looked upon as an unfriendly act." Most Asian countries feel the same way.

While the Rudd/Gillard government waffled on, over 3400 asylum seekers arrived in the last 7 months and were hauled off to be processed at the offshore immigration centre on Christmas Island, another remote piece of Australian territory that is now filled to capacity. The Immigration Department is looking to put the overflow on the mainland in some remote former mining camp. Still Gillard looks elsewhere, like East Timor and Papua New Guinea and stupidly refuses to discuss the "Pacific Solution" with a willing Nauru.

The Way I See It....the government should make an emphatic pronouncement to make Sri Lankan refugees (mainly Tamils) realize that they are NOT in danger at home. They are only despised for the vicious separatist movement they perpetrated on their fellow citizens and being cursed at and spat-on doesn't constitute any danger. They deserve to be reminded of their guilt. Tell them "Just wear it and don't come here!" As for the Afghans, tell them to stop running away from the Taliban problem. If you or your family are threatened by these rag-headed Scumbags, have some "balls" and join your country's much maligned, understaffed police or military and fight the bastards and don't rely on our soldiers to do the dying for you. As for you Iraqis, "Ask not what we can do for you, ask what you can do for your country...Aussies don't like wusses!"

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