Return to the Pacific Solution

Posted by Katie DeRosa on Friday, September 14, 2012
The first planeload of 30 asylum seekers arrived on Nauru early Friday morning, but not the last, as the Australian immigration minister indicated women and children could also be sent to the remote Pacific island as a deterrent to human smugglers. The Australian government is fulfilling its promise to reinstate offshore processing, a policy instigated by the Howard government in 2001 which saw boat migrants sent to Nauru and Manus Island before they could be processed in Australia. The policy was abolished four and a half years ago and decried by the Labor government as inhumane and a failure. But the Labor government under Julia Gillard flip flopped following a report by an expert panel released in mid-August. 

The first arrival was a group of Tamil men flown from Christmas Island. They were unloaded one by one to prevent protest or unrest. They will be living in a tent city for an undetermined length of time until the government decides if they can be processed in Australia. The island will be able to hold up to 1500 detainees and another 600 detainees once Papua New Guinea's Manus Island is opened. 
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen told Australian media offshore processing will send a strong message to human smugglers. 
"The message is very clear, you arrive in Australia by boat you can be taken from Australia by airplane and processed in another country," Immigration Minister Chris Bowen told Australian media Friday. 
Sarah Hanson-Young, a Senator for the Green Party, urged the government to specify how long asylum seekers could spend on Nauru. 
"We need proper clarity from the Australian government and the Nauruan government as to just how long refugees should suffer," she told the media.
Media have arrived on the island but are being shut out of the detention camp. 
Reaction has been swift on Twitter and social media: 
Amnesty Australia called the decision "shameful." "How long are people going to be 
stuck on Nauru? Join us in demanding some answers," Amnesty Australia tweeted.  
The Refugee Action Coalition planned a protest outside the Department of Immigration in Sydney at 4 p.m. on Friday. 

Prominent barrister and refugee advocate Julian Burnside said Australia "takes no responsibility for refugees sent to Nauru. Offshore processing means 'close the door behind them.'"
Captain Paul Moulds with the Salvation Army told an Australian Broadcasting Network radio program in Sydney that 20 
Salvation Army staff are expected to land on Nauru to help asylum seekers who will be "upset and distressed." 
The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre tweeted "ASRC has learnt only reason the men boarded a plane to Nauru was because they were lied to and told the plane was going to Australia." That information has not been confirmed. 
The resource centre also reported that as a result of the previous detention on Nauru, 93 children were left there for more than three years, 45 of which had to be airlifted out due to becoming suicidal, refusing to eat or sewing their lips together in protest. There was also one death. 

And yet there's little evidence offshore processing has acted as a deterrent to human smugglers. 

Katie DeRosa is a Times Colonist journalist investigating the Australian government's mandatory detention policy for boat migrants in light of Canada's tougher refugee reforms under Bill C-31.



Make a Free Website with Yola.