Monday, February 11, 2013

Cleaning up Australia's mess

What to make of John Key's agreement to take 150 refugees a year of Australia's hands? IMHO its a terrible idea, which endorses and encourages Australia's human rights abuses and breach of international law.

The problem isn't taking more refugees. Our current quota of 750 a year is miserly, and we're not pulling our weight on this international problem. We should be taking more. The problem is Australia. Australia has an obligation under the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees to assess the claim of anyone who presents themselves as a refugee, and grant asylum to anyone who has a well-founded fear of persecution. But for the last twenty years - ever since John Howard discovered the power of racism to win elections - it has sought to undermine and evade this obligation: first with mandatory detention, then with the "Pacific solution", then by literally moving the goalposts required to claim refugee status, and now its back to dumping them on small islands in the Pacific again.

Australia's island camps have been found to be "arbitrary detention which is inconsistent with international human rights law". Its camp on Nauru is a human rights catastrophe. By accepting people from these camps, we are endorsing them, and Australia's welching on its international obligations. As a country which supposedly supports human rights and international law, we shouldn't be doing that. Neither should we be endorsing the racist politics which has led Australia to pursue these policies.

Australia made this bed for itself, and they can lie in it. Rather than cleaning up their mess and endorsing their lawless racism, we should be condemning it.