29 December 2012

Lock them all up (but give them the key)

My first chance to catch up with the blogosphere since before Christmas and I can't help going back to a suggestion I have made a few times before about asylum seekers.

First, what got me going again on this issue (in reverse chronological order):

Without direct comment on any of the above, except to say that Bernard Keane suffers from a whopping oversupply of credulousness when it comes to the Sri Lankan government, I am prepared yet again to go way out into left (or right) field with these suggestions:

1. Treat all asylum seekers the same. There is after all no justification in international or domestic law for having a totally different regime in place for people who arrive by boat or by plane. The plane people are just as likely to have used some sort of covert means to get here, including just simply pretending they were only coming for a visit when they intended all along to apply for asylum.

2. Don't give any of them permission to work, and lock them all up.

3. Give them the key.

Now, I realise that technically you haven't locked someone up if you give them the key, but at least it might help the pollies with their sound bites if they can say something like "Yes, we're locking them all up" then run off before the questioning gets to keys and stuff like that.

Actually what I mean is that all asylum seekers, regardless of means of arrival, should be accommodated in open hostels where they can live, be fed and clothed, but still come and go as they like providing they don't take up accommodation somewhere else -- a few rules like reporting in on a regular basis would be required, backed up by actual detention for non-compliance.

Having full room and board would mean they wouldn't need to work. A small daily allowance to allow people to take public transport to visit their lawyer or go to a movie would be a lot cheaper than social security payments.

Why not let them work? Well, as I said, Bernard Keane is way too quick to believe the rhetoric about the Sri Lankans, but in both the boat and plane arrival groups there are undoubtedly people who (OMG!) are desperately trying to find some way of feeding their families back home by getting work in a Western country by whatever means possible. In fact, from my own experience I am well aware that there are whole rackets at work sending people to Australia, mostly by plane as it happens, with instructions on how to apply for a protection visa, then appeal to the Refugee Review Tribunal, then have a shot in the courts, while getting legal permission to work throughout their stay.

Would this stop the boats? I doubt it. Actually I think it would have more of an effect on reducing the number of plane arrivals, but, and here I am really going out on a limb, THE BOATS ARE NOT THE PROBLEM!

(Sorry about the capitals, graphic equivalent of shouting I know, but I just lose it sometimes on this issue.)

People are dying at sea. They are also dying on the trek across North-East Africa to the camps in Kenya. They are dying in the Mediterranean, even in  the Atlantic. They are dying in the Arizona desert. We could do something to reduce the danger by increasing real offshore processing in Indonesia and Malaysia, but they will keep coming so long as they consider the danger of the voyage to be less than the danger of staying put.