Jul 3, 2012

Coalition’s asylum-seeker policy — lost at sea

The asylum policies of the Coalition are not only cruel, they are unworkable, writes John Menadue, Centre for Policy Development director and former Department of Immigration secretary, and Arja Keski Nummi, former first assistant secretary in the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

The asylum policies of the Coalition are not only cruel, they are unworkable. Let’s examine them.

The Coalition  wants to re-introduce Temporary Protection Visas. More than 8000 TPVs were issued to people who came to Australia by boat — most of whom went on to be granted permanent protection visas. It did not stop boats — in fact the evidence shows that more people got onto boats once this visa class was introduced with more than 6000 coming in 2001.

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19 thoughts on “Coalition’s asylum-seeker policy — lost at sea

  1. Steve777

    Again, an excellent analysis. We can’t come up with a perfect solution but the CDP study shows we can do much better if politicians of all colours can get together and genuinely look for a solution rather than for political advantage.

  2. The Pav

    Good luck with the rational approach.

    You see the issue is complex and hard to work out but lends itself to sloganereering.

    Howard realised this hence ” we will decide….etc”

    As long as Australian allow their fears of Asia to overcome
    their humanity and “fair go’ the right wingers such as Abbott will continue to use it for crass
    politcal gain and stuff the suffering they cause

  3. Kathi Bonhagen

    Howdy, my cousin asks me to post the following for him because he can’t access subscriber page.

    No one can really agree to the LNP policy, because towing back the boats cannot work simply because the people smugglers will teach the asylum seekers to scuttle the boats. More over they can start sending boats in fleet, if I was them I’ll send fleet of 12, 2 for decoy for the navy to chase around and the rest can penetrate. If I was the Indonesian and Malaysian government I would let all asylum boats leave the ports if Australia act arrogant and don’t share the responsibility, might even let everyone fly to Australia without enough valid documents.

    Immagine if the fundamentalists take over Jordan and king Abdullah rocks up to the UN refugee camp and seeks refuge to be resettled in Australia, do you think he really needs the Australian government to wait until there is enough resources to provide welfare to him in the resettlement placement program?

    King Abdullah can buy out Twiggy easily and provide plenty of people jobs. Suppose he could only access to a couple of lazy billions left in the Swiss and Cayman accounts he could sure look after himself and open business in Australia.

    Why don’t we have something like the importation of the wogs or the 10 pound pom program running in the region to take more refugees in? A humanitarian work visa is better for the asylum seekers than them paying people smugglers huge sum of money for a risky boat trip, n’est-ce pas? Is it because we don’t like the darkies and the moslems? Or is it because we became either too sanctimonious or too dumbed down that we lost touch with reality, we think we should not charge refugees or that they are all starving from the slums and need welfare provided? Every refugee has different means and aptitude, many don’t need charity and welfare but a quick chance to be resettled and start a new life, why don’t we think about helping them to meet those needs?

    It’s ridiculous that we have shortage of labour in regional area and the government has been compelling tourists to do 3 months of regional work in order to renew their visa when most of them much prefer to work and stay in the city while desparate refugees are waiting in camps. We should offer special work visas for refugees who passed assessment by the UN, get various employers to get involved to ensure there will be enough jobs provided, they may have to work 5 years before gaining permanent residency. Their tax should be flat around 32-34% for the first 3 years, the federal government keeps the 29% like they do with the tourists and the 3-5% goes back to the local government, it makes sense because the spending pattern of these new arrivals will likely be less than Australians and other migrants hence there is less flow on effect in the economy.

    Taking refugees in for work should alleviate the pressure in the region. Now we need a great logistician to map out various locations in the region to build processing centres that will help with better population distribution and reducing the need for refugees to travel. Business should be in partnership with government to train those awaiting refugees to be a pool of labor supply, many of these refugees could register for the work visa and can be picked when needed so they won’t have to wait too long.

    Companies such as clothing can also have small factories at the processing centres to employ refugees and pay local wage rate. The waiting list for all registered refugees in the region needs to be a smart matrix that does not only sort by the time of registration, but divided into subgroups of ethnicity and also skills, it will help us with a diversity resettlement program also alleviate ethnic density backlog in the region.

    Data profiles need to be shared with Australian intelligence, finger prints, iris scan etc. so that those who failed assessment should not attempt to try to reach Australia with new identity.

    Now those arrived in Australia by boats should be put back on the same waiting list with refugees in the region. If the law does not permit, we need to create a maritime arrival department, the department has the budget to assess only 3 refugee claims completely per year. All boat arrival claims must require on ground intelligence investigation in order to complete assessment. The department however has the means to assess many more cases on preliminary level, those who fail preliminary assessment as either insufficient, dubious or fraudulent will be promptly refered to the general immigration department or a fraud squad to deal with. It is a punishable criminal offence to l i e and try to defraud the Republic of Australia.

    Those who pass security clearance can live in the community, on Christmas Island, may be Norfolk Island, and as the last resort send them to Tasmania to stay with Christine Milne. They cannot leave the island without authorisation. Now here’s the very important thing people need to know. Asylum seekers need to be placed in shared amenities accommodations, dwellings similar to backpackers standard, those awaiting at processing centers overseas who have passed assessment should live in more convenient dwellings and those newly registered could either live in army barrack standard or backpackers standard if there is not enough fund to provide more convenient dwellings. Now the Greens should not complain about this, many Australians I know live in backpackers hotel and work to pay their way, do the Greens look down on backpackers now?

    If people who you have no clue about knock on your door and say they have been abused and need help what do you do? You take them down to the local ‘refuge’ to stay, the shelter can only provide the kind of accommodation they can afford for as many people as they could. The Greens need to stop living in theory the same way the free marketeer purists do, start living in reality and practice. We are a long way from utopia yet.

    Talking about utopia, Greg Barns suggested open borders to solve the problem, that’s not a bad idea, but even my relatives in Holland and Germany want to move to Australia let alone people in poorer or politically unpleasant countries. Bring back the top tax rate of 48% and apply it as a flat rate for all non-valid visa entries + a health insurance levy or they can choose their own private provider, and assign one employment officer to 60 cli ents checking up on them to make sure they work legally and to help them find work. Tax department should target and enforce heavy fine for those who illegally employ these arrivals. Clive Palmer in his twisted and nasty attack on Gillard blamed the drownings on her policy of placing barrier to those asylum seekers to fly in. The policy has been in place for years regardless of who’s in government, it is to do risk of flight, people from those countries are prone to disappear and become illegal immigrants and it costs a lot to try to catch them, detain and return them. That is why such restriction is in place, the question whether it is also trying to stop a flood gate of asylum seekers coming to Australia is debatable. And no Clive you don’t get on the plane and fly straight back the next day if you fail, there is a review and appeal process, Clive seems to be going more loonie than the CAD.

    Once there are great processing centres open in the region, airlines or travel agents in a second country could try to recommend and sell tickets for people to go there if they don’t have enough paperworks if the agents can solicit the asylum seekers to reveal their intention for traveling to Australia. It will not be bel ievable that asylum seekers will not be aware of the centres when they are smart enough to find contact with the under world people smugglers for such difficult travel while such better and easier option are available for people to go via the centres. Would a present of a Australian offices at the airports to direct would be asylum seekers to the centre work? We know that people can’t just rock up to Autralian consulate to claim asylum, it would flood the system that’s why they have to go the a UN office to spread the load of resettlement to different countries.

    Maritime arrivals who passed preliminary assessment can live in the islander community and must do 4 days of voluntary work per week (may be drop back to 3 days a week after 4 years) and learn english or other training in other time. Single men can stay at the backpackers if government don’t have enough housing, good for hotel iers. They must not be paid cash but get only grocery card may be $50 each per week, get $50 cash per month and children get $20. If government can’t provide work, private employers can employ and pay at award rate but directly to the government account. The government keeps 70% for providing healthcare, education, housing and other administrative requirement such as intelligence, 30% will go back to local government for local projects. Children who turn 18 have to do 3 days voluntary work per week and study in other times. This restriction should run for 7 years unless their turn in the ‘queue’ come up.

    If people don’t like it, leave or don’t come. If they are willing to do the hard yard they deserve to be here and the bogans should stop bi!ching. Enact a law to deport all politicians and journalists who complain about asylum seekers unnecessarily, send them to Antarctica.
    If after 8 months, there is still a lot of maritime arrivals and more drownings then buy a high rise building in Malaysia. Separate the ground floor securely and make it the Australian Embassy, and upstairs for new maritime asylum seekers to be send there. The Autralian government guarantee their protection and will let those found to be genuine resettle in Australia after 7 years if no other countries offer resettlement. The embassy is technically Australian territory, security staff their will also be security staff for monitoring entry and exits to upstairs dwellings. The government already negotiate rights for asylum seekers with the help and support from the UN, if the place is safe enough for Australian staff it should be ok for asylum seekers. Another way to reduce the pressure is to swap failed claimants with qualified claimants in the region, since we are taking up more responsibility we should be able to negotiate a 1:1 ratio; also try to get charity organisations to sponsor to provide welfare for refugees so we can take more in.

    If they can’t agree to any solution then notify the UN to withdraw from the convention and write up Australia’s own refugee law. The Greens should not pretend that they are not trying to control boat arrivals, if they weren’t they wouldn’t be supporting the prosecution of the people smugglers.

  4. Pamela

    Both The Nauru and the Malaysian solutions require that people get into dangerous boats, set out to sea, be found and rescued by the Australian navy and customs risking their lives in order to trigger the “solution”.

    Whether it is the 800 destined to be transported to Malaysia or the thousands to be transported to Nauru, all these people must put their lives at risk in order to activate the Australian policy proposals. This is a brute fact of both proposals.

    This negates the stated purpose of the politicians who argued so strongly last week that their most pressing goal was to save lives and prevent more deaths at sea.

    What is so purist about resettling 1000 assessed and proven refugees from Indonesia and committing to an increase in our refugee intake. Resettlement is key to ending irregular movements of people. This action would indicate to those waiting in Indonesia that Australia was committed to providing an alternative to the expensive and dangerous journey at the hands of unscrupulous agents.

    We would also be opening the opportunity to effective dialogue with our neighbours who currently see us as dumping our responsibility and so are clearly not assisting in preventing irregular movements.

    Refugees and asylum seekers are coming because they see no other way- they see the numbers waiting in Indonesia for resettlement that never comes. Providing a formal , orderly resettlement in real numbers provides the other way.
    People are saying that they will wait if they have a real chance of resettlement.
    There are currently 1200 refugees in indonesia and around 4000 asylum seekers. The numbers are not frightening.

    This initial plan of action implemented as a crisis measure would really save lives and open the space for a real regional cooperation model for protection which after 11 years of Bali Process deliberations has not even come close.

  5. michael crook

    Interesting the attack on the Greens as “purist” when the Greens are only suggesting that we follow our obligations under international law and the conventions which our parliament voted into law. The politics of “boat people” is just that, politics, and it was a vicious blatantly racist vote winning attack by Howard to win an election. That the ALP followed this racism with a gutless me too ism gives us the result we have today, which is no different, except in minor degree, from the Howard model. The Greens have got it exactly right. It is most interesting that the attack on the Greens comes from a couple of bureaucrats. The Department of Immigration has been complicit in the criminality initiated by the Howard Government and despite the odd outbreak of humanity by a very few public servants have continued to enforce a regime which refugees must feel is somewhat akin to the Spanish Inquisition. This particular department is, I feel, beyond redemption and should be dissolved and anyone associated with the refugee torture programs should be denied reemployment in the Australian Public Service. By putting a “pragmatic” argument the authors have rewritten history to justify their own behaviours. They stand condemned.

  6. Hudson Jasmine


    It’s not the 1200 refugees & 4000 asylum seekers that policy makers are worried about, it’s those who don’t want to register. The people movement experts know. They are either economic migrants or political migrants who are not under threat of persecution. They purchase people smugglers’ travel package and only go through Malaysia and Indonesia in short transit, they don’t wait there like the others.

  7. Pamela

    This is tosh. What do you mean ” those who dont want to register”.
    Cant register more like it.
    Have you stood outside UNHCR office in Jakarta and seen the people lined up unable to get in.
    They wait 12 months and more for an interview.
    The reality is NO ACCESS.
    This is why people go to the people smugglers.
    Jakarta is the first UNHCR office at which Afghans can make an application for a refugee visa.
    after a 12 months interview, they wait another 12 months for a decision.
    And then the big one- NO RESETTLEMENT!!!

    If we tackle these blocks we will go a long way to changing the way people arrive .

  8. Hudson Jasmine


    No one is disputing about the need for more processing centre and staff to ease the problem.

    What you advocates are in denial is that there are people who don’t want to register because they normally don’t qualify for the refugee status and it’s better for them to try to go straight to Australia and skip the waiting process. Not that I make any judgement on them. My friend from Italy did a fake marriage with our Australian friend so she can move to Australia. They didn’t even live together, the immigration department don’t have the time to check up and investigate. If you think the immigration department has the time to investigate into all refugee claims completely un-failed you are mistaken.

  9. Gratton Wilson

    The excuse of not taking refugees from Asia becaue there are thousands of refugees in camps in Africa and one Asian means one less African doesn’t cut much ice with meThe former colonisers of Africa have a moral obligation to mend the damage that their exploitation did to those countries and repay the finacial gains that they took from those countries. We have look after our own part of the globe. Indonesia cannot be expected to carry all the burden of those asylum seekers, we have no right to force refugees back to their shores.
    For as long as we sell armaments to anyone we must carry responsibility for the harm that is done by them. It would be poetic justice if the countries that sold armaments to have to take responsibility for the damage they do.

  10. graybul

    Thanks John Menadue . . spot on! Evenso, as ‘the Pav’ says, Abbott is not on about rational analysis. Abbott has made boats and refugees his platform from which he can attain Govt. Reason, ethics, morality and a fast disappearing concept called ‘a fair go’ rests within community. Parliament having abdicated its responsibility last week.Wonder what this nation considers a fair and reasonable body count before the end game concludes?

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