Our home is girt by sea... And red tape.
For those who've come across the seas, if you're not from a white European country then expect to be locked up in what we call 'administration detention' but looks a bloody lot like prison and that's if you manage to get here in the first place.
One Afghan family has been evacuated by US officials as, despite eligibility, their paperwork wasn't able to be efficiently filed for Australian evacuation.
Yesterday, it was reported that a family of an Afghan interpreter for Australian military was unable to be evacuated by Australian services. Lawyers for the interpreter, who is resettled in Australia, said that his family would have to submit visa paperwork via post to be eligible. The family ended up evacuated by US military services as international post, shockingly, is not the most efficient way to file time sensitive documents.
The interpreter, identified by the ABC as Nasir, said "The Americans were aware that these people were the family of an Australian interpreter and they agreed to evacuate them as they had a feeling they were in danger." They were successfully evacuated on the basis of being family of Nasir with minimal documents. According to Forbes, US citizens and permanent residents can qualify for evacuation by showing up to the Kabul airport and presenting proof.
The ABC reported that post was not the only way for people in Afghanistan to qualify for evacuation, it was just the only way for the category Nasir's family was in. The same article noted that many people stranded in Afghanistan can apply for evacuation online. Which leaves us to wonder how accessible the internet might be for families and citizens in trouble. It's also evidence of a wider problem with how Australia approaches refugees and people seeking asylum.
Now I'm not a politician, and I've never had to manage an emergency evacuation mission, but requiring an eligible family to POST documents internationally in order to get a flight is so obviously a deeply flawed system. And this isn't a one-off. The immigration system for people seeking asylum and refuge in Australia is rife with this red tape. Just one example is the number of boat turnbacks orchestrated by the federal government despite statistics showing that displaced people coming by boat are more likely to qualify for refugee status than those who come via plane.
The Prime Minister infamously said this month that he "wishes things could be different." He also proudly states that he helped 'stop the boats' during the Tony Abbott years (fuck, and we thought that was a dark time). The Coalition's 2021 Budget boasted $7.7 million over two years for a program deterring refugees trying to come to Australia by plane. The PM doesn't get to wish, he gets to influence policy. And the policies, many of which are backed by both major parties, say stay out.
The first evacuation flight from Afghanistan held 26 people. 26 fucking people. Compare that to the first US flight that was packed to the absolute brim with people sitting on the floor of the aircraft. There was some question, even on our own Cheek platforms, as to why it was only 26. Misinformation is rife when it comes to this issue, however it has been reported by The Guardian that it was only 26 people who were prepared with paperwork (believable given what we know about the system).
On this issue, Scott Morrison said: “This will be done in as orderly fashion as is possible in the circumstances." What we saw in Afghanistan was desperation. People lost their lives trying to board the first US flight. It's the furthest thing from orderly. He added "we need to be very clear who is getting on our planes, who is going to our base and going to come here and live in Australia,” a comment which tells you everything you need to know. We have a Prime Minister who is more interested in who comes into Australia than who gets out of what is now a dangerous country.