If only they would listen [REBLOGGED from The AIM Network]

I agree 100% with what Kaye Lee, and through her, Julian Burnside say here. This is what I’m talking about when I speak of a real “regional solution” which is truly multilateral. It would be lovely if this idea gained traction with the politicians. After all, some people have been advocating something like this for years. Please look beyond your own concerns, people. It’s not “someone else’s problem – it is our problem, a global member of society.
After all, in Australia we’re supposed to have “boundless plains to share”, aren’t we?

Show your support and attend an event in support (I gave links to other forms of support on Friday):

European Day of Action for Refugees
UK – Glasgow Sees Syria
UK – Edinburgh Sees Syria
UK – London – National Day of Action
Canada – several locations – Refugees welcome (Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa, St Johns, Toronto, Victoria, Vancouver)
United States – Seattle
Australia – several locations – Light the Dark (Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide)
Read and share.

While the Liberals gloat over stopping the boats, and Labor wrings its hands pretending concern about drownings, other more enlightened people are offering practical advice, if only our politicians would listen.Julian Burnside, who knows more than most about the plight of refugees, makes the following eminently sensible suggestions.“I suggest an alternative, genuine, form of offshore processing, which is for Australia to process asylum claims offshore (in Indonesia, before they get on a boat) and, for those assessed as refugees, promise resettlement in a finite, specified time.

The essential elements of this proposal include:

• Our annual refugee intake would need to be increased. It is presently set at 13,750. It should be increased to 30,000 per year.

• The processing has to be fair. Experience suggests that, when processing is not subject to judicial oversight, the result of the process owes more to political considerations than to the merits of the particular claims. Experience on Nauru from 2001 to 2005 threw up some notorious examples of grossly unfair processing.

• The increase in refugee places has to be sufficient to keep their waiting time in Indonesia to a reasonable length: one year at the most. A longer waiting time than that may prompt some to try a quicker route.

• We would have to enlist Indonesia’s cooperation so that the refugees could live without harassment while they waited in Indonesia for resettlement. In particular, it is desirable that they be allowed to work while in Indonesia awaiting resettlement.

• We would have to warn them about the risk of getting on a smuggler’s boat.

This sort of offshore processing would in fact solve the problem of people risking their lives at sea. By processing refugee claims in Indonesia, and increasing our refugee intake, we would create a system for safe, orderly resettlement. We can do it. But we won’t do it unless our concern about people drowning at sea is genuine.

A real regional solution

I do not advocate an open borders policy. Initial detention for people who arrive without papers is reasonable. But it should be limited to one month, for preliminary health and security checks. After that, release them on interim visas with four crucial conditions:

• they must stay in touch with the Department until their refugee status has been determined;

• they are allowed to work or study;

• they are allowed access to Centrelink and Medicare benefits;

• they are required to live in a regional town until their refugee status has been determined.

There are plenty of country towns which are slowly shrinking as people leave. The National Farmers Federation estimates that there are 96,000 unfilled jobs in country areas. It is highly likely that many asylum seekers would get jobs.

How this would work can be tested by making some assumptions.

First: numbers. The average arrival rate of boat people over the past 20 years is about 2,000 per year. In 2001 (the year of the Tampa episode), just over 4,000 boat people arrived. (It is a striking thing how the arrival of 4,000 frightened people threw the country into a panic). In 2012, 25,000 boat people arrived. That is roughly equivalent to the annual arrival numbers in the late 1970s, as we resettled Indo-Chinese refugees, with no observable social difficulty. The arrival rate has fallen away again, but let us assume that the 2012 figure becomes the new normal.

And second, let us assume that all of them stay on full Centrelink benefits.

These are both highly unlikely assumptions.

It would cost us about $500 million a year. All that money would be spent in the economies of regional towns on rent, food and clothing, to the great benefit of the economy of the regional towns where they lived. It is not difficult to see the benefits to the economy of towns which are slowly losing population to the capitals.

By contrast, we are presently spending about $5 billion a year mistreating refugees. In other words, by treating them decently we could reduce the cost of the system by about $4.5 billion a year.

It is not hard to think of national infrastructure projects which might be funded from the savings. A billion dollars a year could be turned to creating more public housing for homeless Australians; another billion dollars a year could be applied to building schools or hospitals, or used to reduce the deficit or reverse tertiary education funding cuts.

There are many ways these ideas could be implemented. A few billion dollars a year can be used to damage asylum seekers profoundly, or it can be used for the benefit of the community in which asylum seekers live pending refugee status determination and for the benefit of the wider community. But it won’t happen until someone shows enough leadership that we are behaving badly because we have been misled about the character of the people who wash up on our shores.

Let us hope that, one day soon, Australia will show that it can return to its true character.”

Hear, hear.

We Must Do the Right Thing, Not the Easy One

*Yes, the title is paraphrased from a quote in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Good guess. I thought it appropriate.

Can you hear the whispers? It’s a movement, a gathering storm of change. While the less-altruistic may dismiss it as simply noise, or try to only do the bare minimum possible, others know better.

The simple, sad photo of “The Boy on the Beach”: Aylan Kurdi, is waking people up. Perhaps in the long run, this collective recognition of the plight, our empathy, will come to nothing. But I dare to dream and hope for better.

Arise from your slumber, oh people! Wake up to the devastation of the world. Then, see that all is not lost or hopeless.
Everything is interconnected. Our inaction, or action, on various fronts (however small or large our contribution) helps sway the balance one way or another. This relates to the current wars, rising conflict between groups at home, distribution of weapons and dropping bombs etc. vs. giving real help…
In short, how we deal with social, economic and environmental pressures, globally and regionally, separately or together, matters.

Here and now, we have to stand up – we have to fight back, with words and ideas. We must say a firm, “No!” to one way and a strong, “YES!” to the other.
More than anything, we have to come together and talk about this. Slogans and pointless politicising just doesn’t cut it.

It’s just common sense.

A few other bits of common sense from The Progressive Conversation (1) and The AIM Network (2) – click on highlighted words to follow for the rest:


Image from@Latuffcartoons Via @MiddleEastEye

It’s something we take for granted isn’t it? That each of us has a country – a place to put our feet – on a planet where 71% of the surface is covered by ocean.

Like having air to breathe, we assume that having somewhere to stand, to walk – is a basic right of existence. Our bodies aren’t exactly ocean-friendly – not for anything longer than a shortish swim in any event. And without a place on this planet to safely put your feet so that you can find shelter, get food, water and continue to breathe air – you die. It’s as simple as that.

This “stop the boats” rubbish must stop. (2)

  • September 5, 2015
  • Written by:
This “stop the boats” rubbish must stop.Both major parties, and the people who condone this rhetoric, should be ashamed of themselves.

In 1959, during the opening of World Refugee Year, Prime Minister Robert Menzies said

“It has not been easy for organised world opinion in the United Nations or elsewhere to act directly in respect of some of the dreadful events which have driven so many people from their own homes and their own fatherland, but at least we can in the most practical fashion show our sympathy for those less fortunate than ourselves who have been the innocent victims of conflicts and upheavals of which in our own land we have been happy enough to know nothing.

It is a good thing that Australia should have earned a reputation for a sensitive understanding of the problems of people in other lands; that we should not come to be regarded as people who are detached from the miseries of the world.”

More later, as there’s an article from The AIMN which deserves to be republished in full.

As I said on Friday and others have said before that, those making these journeys are desperate. They’re not going to be deterred by treacherous seas, barbed wire, guards or other measures. The measures only induce fear and confusion.

We are strong enough to help. If we share the load properly, then it won’t seem so bad. Just the same, though, if some (e.g. Gulf states) refuse to take in many, that doesn’t mean we (Australia, etc.) have an excuse to continue our poor behaviour.

Edmund Burke once said (among numerous other good things): “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

After all, to go back to Dumbledore and Rowling again (but this time the Chamber of Secrets): “It is our choices that define us far more than our abilities.”

Other links:
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/03/opinion/australias-brutal-treatment-of-migrants.html?_r=4 ~ That editorial from the New York Times
http://auswakeup.info/refugees/ ~ An interesting website tracking the discrimination and ‘wrecking-ball’ chaos of the Abbott Govt in several areas; this tab focuses on refugees.
https://theconversation.com/asylum-seekers-in-indonesia-why-do-they-get-on-boats-8334 ~ An explanation – again – of why asylum seekers get on boats to Australia instead of staying in Indonesia