Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Canberra joins the people traffickers

The newest version of the "Pacific solution" doesn't stand up to scrutiny, writes Frank Brennan (professor of law at the Australian Catholic University and professor of human rights and social justice at the University of Notre Dame Australia) in the SMH.

"Under the Howard Government's Easter 2006 proposal, a Papuan reaching the Australian mainland, directly fleeing persecution without the use of people smugglers, would be moved to Nauru or Manus Island for processing. If we presume upon the integrity of the public servants and the decision-making, the same decision would ultimately be made and Australia would recognise the Papuan to be a refugee. Under the Refugee Convention, we could not send the Papuan back to Indonesia.

No other country would have a higher duty than Australia to receive that person for resettlement, given that he or she fled directly to our shores. Just as the 42 Papuans have now settled in Melbourne after being processed on Christmas Island, so, too, the future Papuan asylum seeker would have to be settled in Australia...Perhaps the Government thinks that by moving the decision-making offshore, it can be tampered with. Some, or all, of the 42 could be found not to be refugees if processed in Nauru or Manus Island.

If those found to be refugees are to be resettled in third countries (other than Australia to which they fled directly), our Government will need to offer financial incentives to poorer countries to receive them. This is people trafficking. Why else would other countries receive a handful of refugees who have directly fled to Australia seeking asylum?"

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