Friday, June 17, 2011

The right thing for the wrong reason

Refugee politics is a perennial topic in Australia, with government's and oppositions competing, regardless of political stripe, to see who can be the most racist towards desperate people in need. The government's current plan, in the wake of the failed "Pacific solution", is to forcibly transfer refugees to Malaysia. This is deliberate denial of rights under the Refugee Convention (which requires that Australia provide sanctuary to anyone with a well-founded fear of persecution, regardless of how they happen to arrive); worse, Malaysia isn't a party to the Convention, and has a record of abusing and mistreating refugees [PDF]. Which, I suspect, is exactly why Australia is trying to send them there: as a "deterrent".

So its good to see the Australian Parliament voting to condemn the deal. While its not legally binding, its a shot across the government's bow, and suggests that the Australian Labor Party's coalition partners might not vote for money for the program. Unfortunately, this isn't due to any real respect for refugee rights on the part of Australian MPs. The Greens have taken their usual principled and humanitarian stand, but the coalition is opposing the deal because its not nasty and vicious enough. So, they're doing the right thing, but for terrible, terrible reasons.