Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Channelling Howard

In the 90's and 2000's, Australian Prime Minister John Howard employed a racist strategy of demonising refugees to win re-election. Judging from his comments yesterday about the "threat" of a boatload of Sri Lankan refugees heading for New Zealand, John Key seems to be headed down the same path.

(This isn't the first time Key has raised such fears. In fact, he seems to do it every July. I wonder if he's got it marked on his calendar: "July: scaremonger over refugees"...)

It is of course a despicable strategy, which gets the answer to the question of "who should we let in" exactly arse-backwards. But it also ignores both New Zealand and international law. As a party to the Refugee Convention, we are required to grant asylum to anyone who turns up here with a well-founded fear of persecution (something which definitely exists in Sri Lanka). And that requirement is written into our own Immigration Act 2009. So, when Key promises that these people will not be allowed into New Zealand, he is directly contradicting the law. If they get here, their cases must be assessed on their merits - as you would expect in a democratic country committed to human rights and the rule of law.

At the moment ACT is rightly getting excoriated for running a racist campaign against our fellow New Zealanders. National seems to be in danger of running the same sort of campaign against refugees. And if they do so, they should be excoriated too.