The Australian Labor government claimed that Naura could not take asylum seekers because it was not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention. Yet the ALP is effectively condoning torture and human rights abuses through their deal to swap refugees with Malaysia. A country known to not respect the human rights of refugees. A country were the cane is regularly used on refugees. Whilst the government claims to have secured guarantees from Malaysia that refugees will not be abused, it is unfathomable that they could be so naive as to believe that Malaysia will abide by this guarantee or that it can be monitored.
To facilitate this deal, the agreement deletes reference to the words "human rights" and describes refugees as "illegal immigrants" which is a despicable untruth and further justifies the vilification and demonisation of refugees.
How can the Labor government possibly do this after years of opposition to Howard's Temporary Protection Visas and Pacific Solution? This deal almost makes those policies appear to be the epitome of compassion by comparison.
Instead of pandering to the xenophobic legacy of the Pacific Solution, the Labor government should show some mettle and defend those who need defending. Refugees are victims, not criminals.
Australia cannot erect a fence around it and be insulated from the rest of the world as the bigotted policies of the Liberal Party would have us believe.
Certainly we don't want to see refugees risking their lives in leaky boats, however, the government's efforts should be directed towards improving processing and increasing quotas rather than subjecting these people to abuse. People smugglers should be the target of the government's punishment, not refugees.
How can the Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, state that he doesn't want to see a repeat of the numbers of deaths that have occured from sinking boats and then justify condemning asylum seekers to a brutal and inhumane existence in Malaysia. Mr Bowen states that he doesn't want asylum seekers thinking that there is some sort of exemption in place for them. Is it really so bad if they think that? Why shouldn't the Labor government promote Australia as a beacon of compassion instead of embracing the red-neck, racist vitriol that is permeating our society.
What next? Send them to the Gulags? Reopen concentration camps?
Evidence of the attrocities that refugees face in Malaysia were detailed in an article published in AsiaNews.it on 27 Feb 2009, at http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Burmese-refugees-in-Malaysia-abused,-handcuffed,-victims-of-profiteers-14598.html . The article catalogues such abuses as refugees treated as criminals, handcuffed and held in remote prisons, hundreds packed into cramped rooms, women humiliated and forced to strip in front of guards and squat and then made to remain topless, body searches, and all the while profiteerers exploiting the refugees.
Is this what Australia condones? Men, women & children stripped of their lives, stripped of dignity, punished for being victims? Yet through both the Malaysia and Pacific Solutions this is what Australia is doing and has done.
Instead of defending the indefensible, we should be defending the defenceless!
In the name of decency, human rights, morality, dignity and the original ALP virtue of a fair go for all, the Labor government should rescind this inhumane and irresponsible decision immediately.