It's time to fix refugee policy
Last night, the official Australian Labor Twitter posted a Tweet saying:
Let’s be clear: if you attempt to come to Australia by boat, you will not make it. Labor supports OSB– offshore processing, regional resettlement & boat turn-backs where safe to do so, but for years Labor has warned Mr Morrison has put border protection on ‘set and forget’ mode.
The Tweet received considerable backlash from progressive voters.
Let's look at the facts and stats on people seeking asylum and refugees. The Tweet started with a statement impossible to misinterpret: if you come by boat, you won't make it. But The Refugee Council states that people who come (or attempt to come) to Australia via boat are actually statistically more likely to be found to be refugees than people who come with a valid visa. Refugee status is given to people who are found to be in danger if they were to return to or stay in their home country - the establishing of what constitutes 'danger' and which people 'qualify' for refugee status is also problematic, but that's an issue for a separate article.
The Tweet lists offshore processing as a practice Labor supports. Offshore processing is the official name for what refugee advocates call prison. The centers, known also as 'detention,' is where people seeking asylum live until the Australian government determines whether they will be allowed to live in our country or will be sent back to their country of origin. This 'administrative detention' can last years. We have heard about people locked up for nine to 12 years in these centers, where conditions are often worse than prisons. It is legal under international law to seek asylum and refuge when your country is not safe, meaning these people are locked essentially in a prison despite committing no crime.
The Tweet also refers to boat turn backs, 'when it is safe to do so.' One must again ask the question about who and what determines whether a turn back is safe, but again, statistically speaking, if a boat is turned away in Australian waters, people on board are spending more time in the boat than they otherwise would have, had the boat moored. This means double the time in what's likely an unsafe vessel. When people board these boats, they are making a vital decision. The safety on these boats is known to be questionable. Why would a person, often with their family in tow, choose to board an unsafe boat if they had any other choice?
Fair refugee policy is not radical. It is not unthinkable to allow people who have fled their countries in fear of prosecution. Many, many people in our country do not believe what happens in offshore detention centers is right nor just. We urge Labor, as the alternate major party to a cruel government with a terrible track record when it comes to people seeking asylum, particularly people of colour, to reconsider their position. In Australia, we have seen an outcry of support for Ukrainian people who are facing the horrors of war.
This Morrison government has allocated visas for refugees from Ukraine, and we have seen no opposition. The only difference is the colour of their skin, and perhaps their religion. Australia is marketed as a multicultural country, but we are not. Under this Liberal government, we have seen vile treatment of refugees. If we see a change in government come the end of May, we hope to see things shift. The Labor party is currently trying to win an election above all else, but it's not acceptable to do so at the cost of people fleeing prosecution. Instead of using fearmongering tactics, Labor should be striving to improve our country.