Closing the country

This article was originally published on APPS Policy Forum.

Asher Hirsch unpicks the precarious future of Australia’s hard-line asylum seeker policy.

What does the future hold for refugee policy in Australia? Following a brutal policy approach to people seeking asylum in recent years and a blanket policy of harsh deterrence from both major parties, a key question now is whether these policies are sustainable, let alone desirable, over the longer term. Already, tensions and challenges have emerged that threaten Australia’s absolute refusal to face up to its refugee responsibilities.

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Visit by Malaysian Minister for Home Affairs, Manus Island

Record of Australian Extraterritorial Migration Control.

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2016-03-17 04:52:04

Scott Morrison: Bilateral meetings have been held this week between Malaysia and Australia, including the Malaysia-Australia Joint Working Group on Transnational Crime, which met yesterday, and that meeting is continuing today. That is a working group which has evolved into that format based on the meeting that Minister Zahid and I had in Kuala Lumpur last year.
There has also been the seventh Malaysia-Australia Immigration Cooperation Working Group that was held on Tuesday of this week and the fifth Senior Officers Meeting between the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency and the Customs and Border Protection Service, and that was held also on Tuesday of this week.
Now, the Working Group on Transnational Crime provides an opportunity to find the best way forward with regard to transnational crime and the cooperation we have, including a sustainable regional response to people smuggling, but not just people smuggling….
Ahmad Zahid: I’m pleased to announce that I’m looking forward to receive Minister Morrison in Malaysia by the middle of this year for the signing of an MOU in the field of transnational crime between our two countries….
Question: But can you quantify at all the drop in people entering Malaysia with [indistinct]?
Minister Morrison: Look, at this stage, being able to quantify it is still difficult, but I can give you these examples. After the meeting we had in Malaysia last year, the Minister took the initiative to tighten visa on arrival restrictions for those groups that may be seeking to come and transit through Malaysia on their way to Indonesia and to Australia, and I want to thank the Minister for his initiative in that area.
Last year we also, as a result of that meeting, we undertook a joint operation on the Malacca Strait called Operation Kangaroo and the Admiral briefed us when we were in Malaysia a couple of weeks ago and told us on that occasion that one of the smuggling ventures that was intercepted was actually one coming back from Indonesia, coming back up the chain through to Malaysia. And they did that because they knew that the way to Australia was closed. So we are seeing that happen….
Question: Can you explain briefly where these boats are going to go? Are they going to – where exactly will they [indistinct]…
Ahmad Zahid: I would like to invite my Admiral to explain it in detail.
Datuk Mohd Amdan Bin Kurish: Thank you, Ministers.
Well, in fact, we have seen a number of attempts for those boats that have failed to make it to Australia retracting back and later seen as the possible destination for them to retreat to. Being most of these people are identified either from the Middle East or from the South Asia region. So we are taking every precaution that we can to track these people down. In the last number of – a few months back, we have managed to intercept these people returning back from the adventure that they are trying to undertake to go to Australia, which they fail, and they retract back their position into Malaysia through the Straits of Malacca.
So we have seen this trend is moving – quite dramatically increasing, from time to time, in the Malacca Straits.

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The Hon. Scott Morrison MP Minister for Immigration and Border Protection

Does What Happens Offshore, Stay Offshore?

This article was originally published on Asylum Insight.

Australia leads the world in outsourcing and offshoring its human rights obligations. It is the only nation to subcontract the management of its entire detention centre network to private for-profit corporations. It is also the only nation that mandatorily detains those who arrive without a visa, and sends those who come by boat to third countries for processing. Between 2001 and 2007, and again from 2012, the Australian government has attempted to avoid both moral and legal responsibility for asylum seekers by sending them to offshore detention centres in the Pacific.

Australia maintains that responsibility for the management of these centres, and for the numerous abuses that have taken place there, rests solely with the host countries of Papua New Guinea and Nauru. The secretary of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Mr Michael Pezzullo, asserted during the 2015 Senate inquiry into conditions at the detention centre on Nauru that:

‘The Australian government does not run the Nauru Regional Processing Centre, or RPC. It is managed by the government of Nauru, under Nauruan law, with support from the Australian government. The government of Nauru operates the RPC, assesses asylum claims and, where persons are found to be in need of protection, arranges settlement. The government of Nauru is specifically responsible for security and good order and the care and welfare of persons residing in the centre.’ (emphasis added)

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The Economic Cost of Australia’s Asylum Policies

This article was originally published on Right Now.

Australia’s asylum policies are not just inhumane, cruel and a violation of international law, they are also ridiculously expensive.

An analysis of last year’s budget found that in the 2014-15 financial year, the Australian Government spent $2.91 billion on detention and compliance-related programs for asylum seekers who arrived in Australia by boat. This includes $912 million spent on detaining people in unsanitary, cramped and deadly offshore detention centres.

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Australia’s Complicity in Detention Centre Violence

This article originally appeared in Right Now.

A refugee journey is often filled with violence. By definition, someone found to be a refugee has had to flee persecution – often some of the most horrid forms of torture, war, rape and death threats. However, the experiences of violence don’t end once a person reaches our supposedly safe shores. In fact, violence in the immigration process can sometimes be worse than the situations they are fleeing.

In the paragraphs below are some real examples of the horrific violence that occurs in Australian-run detention centres. I do not detail these incidences for the sake of being provocative, but rather in an attempt to educate the broader community of the horrors we, the Australian people, are complicit in. Billions of our taxes have gone directly towards creating these centres that systematically create an atmosphere of violence.

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Offshore processing of asylum seekers breaches international human rights law

In light of recent findings from the Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights that Australia’s regional processing legislation violates many of our human rights obligations, I thought it would be worthwhile posting my essay on the same topic up here. Note that this essay was written one month after the Expert Panel released its report and as such contains some now outdated information. Nevertheless it is still relevant and shows how Australia is breaching its human rights obligation by sending asylum seekers to Nauru and Manus Island.

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