In Crikey’s daily email today, I wrote a piece examining some of the rhetoric regarding asylum seekers that various governments around the world are using.
In short, I was surprised there weren’t ample examples of obnoxious rhetoric from government leaders and Ministers easy to find. No doubt I will now be sent hundreds of examples that I couldn’t find, but the fact one has to search harder for it suggests it is not as widespread as might be assumed.
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Either that, or I have been so desensitised by the blatant, calculated demonisation of asylum seekers that came from Australia’s Prime Minister and some of his senior Ministers in the post-Tampa period in 2001 that every thing else seems mild in comparison.
However, examining this matter reminded me that what actually happens to human beings as a result of the policies of turning back refugee claimants is more significant than the rhetoric. Disturbing details about this are very easy to find and provide much more sobering reading.
I’ve written a bit in the past about some of the practices in other countries. Italy is currently the most notorious, with their recent deal with the Libya government to push asylum seekers back to that country undoubtedly leading directly to people deaths. Here’s one example of what Libya does:
Investigations by independent journalists and NGOs have shown that, on various occasions, the Libyan and Moroccan authorities have arrested and abandoned large numbers of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa in the desert, where many die of hunger and thirst.
Reasons why so many people try to flee right out of Africa are also obvious.
The medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said Angolan soldiers have raped, beaten and tortured illegal Congolese migrant workers before deporting them across the border.
In 2006 Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos said that border security should be stepped up to prevent illegal migrants from destabilising the country.
“We must be mindful about protecting our borders to prevent the entry of foreigners, because the country has become the target of illegal and organised entries that could destabilise it,” said Dos Santos at the swearing-in ceremony of a new interior minister.
Controlling movement of people isn’t just between the western world and the outside either.
The Saudi government has built the Saudi-Yemen barrier, which is a physical barrier along part of its border with Yemen. “ It consists of a network of sandbags and pipelines, three metres high, filled with concrete and fitted with electronic detection equipment.
Saudi Arabia claims the barrier is “a necessary tool in protecting the kingdom from terrorism” and is “necessary for protecting their borders against an influx of illegal immigrants and against the smuggling of drugs and weapons.”
Those “illegal immigrants” include many Somali and Ethiopian refugees.
It’s a complex problem with no easy or perfect solutions – short of Utopian aims such as achieving world peace – but a baseline has to be that any solutions that involve pushing people back to imprisonment, torture and death are not solutions that should be tolerated.