WHY is there NO discussion about processing asylum seekers in Indonesia before they get onto leaky boats?
Last Christmas, before the latest boat tragedies off Christmas Island, barrister Julian Burnside AO QC – an advocate for human rights and fair treatment of refugees – wrote:
“One possibility is to process protection claims while people are in Indonesia. Those who are assessed as refugees would be resettled, in Australia or elsewhere, in the order in which they have been accepted as refugees. If Australia increased its annual refugee intake, with a guarantee of at least 10.000 places for those processed in Indonesia, the incentive to get on a boat would disappear overnight. At present, people assessed by the UNHCR in Indonesia face a wait of 10 or 20 years before they have a prospect of being resettled. During that time, they are not allowed to work, and can’t send their kids to school. No wonder they chance their luck by getting on a boat. This proposal would reduce the waiting time to one or two years, and Australian officials would have an ample chance to warn people of the dangers of a trip with people smugglers.
Genuine offshore processing, with a guarantee of swift resettlement, was the means by which the Fraser government managed to bring about 80,000 Vietnamese boat people to Australia in the late 1970s. It worked, but it was crucially different from the manner of offshore processing being proposed by both major parties.
Unless offshore processing is done fairly and is coupled with swift resettlement, it is nothing but a sham to mask a desire to keep refugees out.
Christmas is a good time to reflect on whether we are, as a nation, genuinely concerned about the welfare of asylum seekers. If we are, then offshore processing can work, and would avoid the hazards of unscrupulous people smugglers and leaky boats. But only if it is done fairly, in Indonesia, and with a guarantee of swift resettlement.”
Offshore processing in Indonesia worked before, why not consider it now?