Sunday, 18 August 2013

No Crime to seek asylum - Irish migrant view of the Australian debate

An Irish anarchist living in Melbourne, Australia gives his perspective on the 'asylum seeker' debate there leading up to the forthcoming elections. He argues Irish workers should be standing in solidarity with the most marginalised and dispossesed in our society. In the words of one Aboriginal activist; ' “As people who know what it’s like to be invaded by boat people we are in a better position to judge how the current boat people should be treated. Where the original boat people who took our country were armed to the teeth and bent on conquest, asylum seekers in 2012 are unarmed and seeking sanctuary."
If there is one thing our barbaric corrupt political class have in common from Ireland to Australia is the need when to keep us divided through the carrot and the stick. There weapon of choice is often whipping up of division, scapegoating of minorities and fear of the ‘other’. In the case of Australia, which I have learnt to well since arriving on these shores, it is the spectre of ‘boat people’ or asylum seekers which dominates the mainstream political discourse in terms of the forthcoming elections.  Basically two shades of the same political establishment seek to outgun each other to see who can offer the cruelest form treatment for men, women and children fleeing persecution, hunger and oppression.
 
You don’t need to dig deep beneath the surface to expose this racist and state sponsored terrorism which has tragically resulted in at least 1376 refugees drowning while trying to reach Australia since 1998. Behind every statistic lies an individual story and a family tragedy. Behind the hysteria of ‘queue jumpers’ and ‘crime influx’,  the reality is Australia takes less that 1% of the world’s refugees, people often fleeing conflicts and military occupations created by western imperialism such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan. For the vast majority of refugees there is no queue to join, especially when you are offered the choice of life and death.
 
In effort to ‘stop the boats’, both the Labour and coalition party policy believes asylum seekers should be 'processed' - illegally detained - in detention camps being built in Papua New Guinea who have been bribed and bullied by the Australian government. Until now people have been detained in some of the most isolated islands in the world at Christmas Island, the small island of Nauru and Manus Island.  They are detained in crowded and shocking conditions where rape, torture and suicide are rife, conditions that have been condemned by  international human rights groups and the UN.  A former security officer on Manus Island said; ‘I’ve never seen human being so destitute, so helpless and hopeless. In Australia, the facility couldn’t even serve as a dog kennel…I felt ashamed to be Australian.’ (1)
 
In an attempt to outgun the Labour Party and its ‘PNG Solution’, Tony Abbot, Catholic fundamentalist educated at Oxford and leader of the opposition claims he will completely stop permanent residency and use the Navy to stop the boats.  In this he is following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Thatcherite John Howard.