Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Australia To Reintroduce 'Pacific Solution'...

...Or At Least A New 'Improved' Version Of It

We haven't mentioned Australia in recent posts but that doesn't mean that we haven't ben keeping a weather eye on what has been happening in that part of the southern hemisphere. There has been the massive increase in the numbers of detained migrants crammed onto Christmas Island, many of whom have been transferred to the mainland Curtin detention centre in Western Australia, a ex-mining camp widely referred to in the Australian press as a 'hell hole', and there is even talk of reopening the notorious Woomera camp. The rampant overcrowding and ever increasing length of time spent in detention has also led to a massive increase in incidence of self-harm amongst the detainees.

2010 is also an election year in Australia and this has lead not only to the anti-immigration arms race but also to the palace coup that saw Julie Gillard oust Kevin Rudd as prime minister, who was seen to be 'not tough enough' on the 'boat people' despite his 3-month long suspension of the processing of asylum visas for Afghan and Sri Lankan refugees. This, along with general governmental intransigence on asylum issues, was meant to act as a deterrent to more boats arriving as well as acting as a electoral boost but has merely become a major cause of the aforementioned overcrowding.

The Liberal (sic) opposition have been having a field day out of all this, with Tony Abbott, Liberal party leader, proposing to bring back a revamped version of the 'Pacific Solution'. So much so that the Labor party had haemorrhaged support to the Liberals (42% of Labor supporters apparently going for the 'PS'). Now that Gilliard is in discussions with the East Timorese President Jose Ramos Horta to use the island as a new asylum processing centre, the [arty is loosing left wing support to the Greens. Sneakily, Gillard has sought to involve New Zealand in what she is terming a 'regional processing centre', thus trying to defuse opposition within her own party whilst still hoping to remove "the incentive, once and for all, for the people smugglers to send boats to Australia." Shit, it has even won over the UNHCR and been cautiously welcomed by 'refugee advocates' as it involves the UN and, unlike Naruu which was the locus of the original 'PS' camp, East Timor is a signatory to the Refugees Convention.

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