Jesuit human rights advocate Father Frank Brennan has argued that Australia should return to the pre-2001 practice of accepting refugees arriving through Indonesia as Australia's responsibility.
In an address delivered last week at Curtin University, Perth, and published in Eureka Street yesterday, he said that the Howard Government took the view that refugees coming by boat from far-flung countries who stopped off in Malaysia or Indonesia were no longer engaged in direct flight from persecution.
"Rather they had fled persecution, found a modicum of protection in another country, and then decided to engage in secondary movement seeking a more benign migration outcome."
In his identifying 2001 as a regrettable turning point in Australia's refugee policy, he also discussed the Howard Government's nexus between the number of successful onshore asylum claims and the number of places available for humanitarian offshore cases. The nexus implies that every successful onshore asylum seeker takes a place that would have been available to an offshore humanitarian applicant.
"Refugee advocates unsuccessfully argued that even those countries without a net migration program would be required to provide a durable solution for refugees within their jurisdiction, and that therefore there should be no nexus.
"There is presently no strong community demand for the nexus once again to be broken. The nexus is judged by the community to be morally acceptable as well as politically expedient."
"As the election lather on the issue commences, let's always ask, 'Why is it right to treat the honest, unvisaed boat person more harshly than the visaed airplane passenger who fails to declare their intention to apply for asylum?' If the answer is based only on consequences, then ask, 'Would not the same harsh treatment of the visaed airplane passenger have the same or even greater effect in deterring arrivals by onshore asylum seekers?' The Qantas 747 does not evoke the same response as the leaky boat, does it?"
The 747 or the leaky boat (Eureka Street)
Indy Kethdy on Flickr
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