Thursday, December 22, 2011

Better Late Than Never

Fancy that, another 200-odd people drowned off the cost of Indonesia while trying to reach Australia. *Yawn*. What's on TV?

And finally, at long last, a couple of the more intellectually honest among Australia's left are starting to admit the obvious truth: having more lenient policies towards asylum-seekers encourages more asylum seekers to journey to Australia in leaky boats, which leads to more deaths.

Tim Blair points out that lefty Australian academic Robert Manne has finally woken up and smelt the coffee:
For its part, the left has been unwilling to concede that the Pacific Solution succeeded in deterring the boats. Between 1999 and late 2001, 12,176 asylum seekers arrived by boat. In the years of the Pacific Solution - 2002 to 2008 - 449 arrived. Since its abandonment, 14,008 asylum seekers have reached Australian shores.
The left's unwillingness to acknowledge the obvious has been of great political significance. Following Kevin Rudd's election in 2007 a wise asylum seeker policy would have involved leaving the Pacific Solution intact but humanising policy by increasing the annual quota of refugees and ending mandatory detention. The internment camps on Nauru were virtually empty. The undeniable cruelty of the policy had reached its natural end.
No one on the left with an interest in asylum seeker policy - and I include myself - was far-sighted or independent or courageous enough to offer the incoming Rudd government such advice.
Well, I'm certainly not of the political left, but I've pointed this out on multiple occasions. Good to have you on board, Robert (no pun intended).

There is only one way to solve this problem. Let's take as given the number of asylum-seekers we're willing to accept. The problem is that the current system incentivises people to attempt risky crossings because once they reach Australia, their application has a vastly higher chance of success.

And that's what you have to end. The only way the boats, and the senseless deaths, will stop is if you actually disincentivise attempting the crossing. Here's the Shylock policy - absolutely no applications for asylum will be accepted from anyone making a ocean crossing and arriving in Australia illegally. Every such person will be summarily deported. Applications for asylum will only be accepted at Australian embassies in foreign countries.

And that is literally all you'd have to do. Visibly enforce that a few times, and you don't need to worry about the cruel detention centres that Robert Manne dislikes as a matter of compassion (and not unjustifiably).

But even past this point, there are two large objections to the whole enterprise.

The first is this - Indonesia is a pretty tolerant place. If you've made it that far, it's highly unlikely you're still at risk of any kind of political repression. So why should Australia accept you as a refugee on the basis that you were persecuted in Afghanistan, notwithstanding that you've already escaped such persecution?

And the second even less politically discussed point is made quite convincingly by Tim Blair
Survivors of the latest doomed voyage claim that everyone aboard each paid between $2500 and $5000. Individually, those amounts would easily cover air fares to Australia. Collective amounts – Saturday’s vessel carried around 250 passengers – would be sufficient to purchase several vessels of greater seaworthiness than that which sank.
Refugee advocates don’t like to discuss why these safer options are not explored. The reasons are to do with identity and culpability. Those arriving in Australia by air require passports, which makes easier the task of disproving the legitimacy of asylum claims. Those arriving from Indonesia on boats commonly carry no identification at all, allowing certain freedoms with their stories.:
In other words, it is quite reasonable to have a presumption that a lot of the people arriving by boat probably have bogus stories.

This doesn't mean that we shouldn't care about their drowning deaths or them being locked up in detention. But for the people who really are economic migrants, there is a quite justified revulsion at rewarding their desire to bypass the normal (long) queues to get into Australia. And if the policy of detaining illegal economic migrants on Nauru has deterrent effects but is harsh on the illegal economic migrant themselves, I can't get too saddened by that.

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