Chasing Asylum

Australia, my home, has lost its way.

If I were to ask myself the question – ” What good has Australia done in the world in recent times?” or “What has been Australia’s greatest achievement?” – the only honest answer I can come up with is we “stopped the boats”.

‘Stop The Boats’ is one of the three word slogans that have dominated Aussie politics since the early years of this century, adopted by one side of the political sphere and since migrated to also become policy on the other side. And we did it. More or less. We ‘stopped the boats’. This of course refers to the boatloads of hopeful asylum seekers aiming for our long and beckoning shores from regions of a world that has also lost its way in a maelstrom of pretence, denial, fear, greed, propagation of lies and conflict that has produced widespread unrest and unprecedented people movement all looking for somewhere safe and peaceful to continue their lives.

But what does this “we stopped the boats” message say about the Australian people?

Australia, which I just realised has been my home now for a little more than half my life so far, has never historically (since European settlement began) been a very open society. In fact it developed into a very narrow-minded, closed-minded and inwards looking society, and remained so even after the mainly European migratory intakes following world war 2, only loosening its strings a little after the end of the Viet Nam conflict as an awakening of social conscience resulting from our own part in the dreadful upheaval of people that action caused.

It was partly that fragile blooming into more openness that attracted me to think about resettling there (as well as the problems that an overcrowded UK was facing in the decades ahead). Space to breathe, and a brighter future, I thought. Nevertheless, I was a little taken aback at how unmodern that ‘modern’ Australia still was, back in the early ’80s. Most of that has changed now. Australia has emerged, in spite of its still minute population, to be very recognisable everywhere on the world stage. Yet it has not advanced in every aspect. Governments in particular still cling to early 20th century colonialist ideals and false, Christian leaning, moral positions of even earlier centuries. They have also succumbed to the neo-conservative and/or neo-liberal ideas that have and are impoverishing the many and enriching the few in all Western nations. I think it is largely due to this that the always deeply held nationalistic views for some time buried as a suppressed undertone to society are now creeping more to the surface in increasing demonstrations of hatred to different ‘others’. And also to a more ‘closed-door’ attitude towards multiculturalism. How else can one explain the continued election in supposedly democratic societies of ‘closed-minded’ governments with a mandate to offer ‘closed-door’ policies?

Anyway, enough introduction. I really want you to watch this film ‘Chasing Asylum’ from, which was kindly made known to me thanks to Caren Black of ‘Titanic Lifeboat Academy’. The film documents the shameful record of Australian abuse of legitimate asylum seekers over the last couple of decades up to 2016, which has earned the condemnation of the UN and sullied our national reputation across the world.

Things have changed a little in the last couple of years. Many of the detainees in our asylum concentration camps have elected to go home or elsewhere. I offer these Key Points as being the current situation – from the Refugee Council of Australia – No matter how you paint this, it is not a pretty picture.

Offshore processing statistics – Key points

  • Since 13 August 2012, 4,177 people have been sent to Nauru or PNG as part of offshore processing arrangements (of which 3,127 were sent since 19 July 2013, when the then Prime Minister announced that they would no longer be resettled in Australia).
  • As of 30 September 2019, there were 562 people left in Nauru and in PNG, and another 47 detained by PNG. As of 21 October 2019, there were men left on Manus Island.
  • As of 30 September 2019, 632 people had departed for the US.
  • Since the Medevac Bill was passed (as at 21 October 2019), 135 people have been transferred under its provisions, and another 39 have been approved and are awaiting transfer (although 10 are being detained by PNG).
  • In total, 1,117 people have been transferred to Australia for medical or other reasons up until 30 September 2019.
  • Re-opening and then closing Christmas Island has been budgeted at $185.2 million over two years. So far, $26.8 million has been spent, with over 100 staff on the island. Only four people (including two children) are being detained there.

I should, in closing, say that the four people currently on Christmas Island – a small tropical island, under Australian control, which is closer to Indonesia than it is to Australia – are a family (two of them children under six years of age – both of them born in Australia) that was allowed to live for four years in a small Queensland community while their asylum claim was processed – becoming firmly embedded in that community – and recently brutally deported by the government, a move that was temporarily stopped in flight by the High Court for a further investigation. Their eventual fate is as yet unknown.

There are days, many of them, when I am ashamed to be an Australian.

Having for the last several months refrained from ‘tagging’ my posts, I have chosen this post to now start using tags once again in an effort to reach a wider audience – not for prestige reasons but because it is time to get serious on being alert to the whole human condition.

One thought on “Chasing Asylum

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  1. I agree. When we took a few overseas trips in the mid 80’s, we were always happy to wear our Qantas kangaroo badge and proudly claim to be Aussies. Not any more. Not something to be proud of now. It’s not just because we’ve got a bunch of dickhead politicians….many people seem to have the same closed minds.

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