Recently I saw this brilliant typo in a publication from a refugee advocacy organisation. The unintended addition of an “a” had changed Scott Morrison’s department to the Department of Immigration and Boarder Protection.
Oh if only! Imagine if the brief was to protect the “boarders” inside Australia’s infamous offshore detention centres instead of Australia’s precious borders.
The first thing that would happen would be to release the 600 plus children still held on Manus Island, Christmas Island and Nauru. Unaccompanied children would immediately be allocated a guardian entrusted with protecting their rights in place of their gaoler Scott Morrison. The next thing would be to phase out offshore detention and replace it with a regime of swift onshore processing. As a model we could take the system used by European countries such as Sweden. Sweden allows asylum seekers to reside in the community, gives them an allowance and a state lawyer and guarantees their processing within four months.
Sweden has already taken thousands of refugees from the Syrian war and is gearing up for a lot more. Director of operations at the Swedish Migration Board, Mikael Ribbenvik, told New Matilda in April that “We’ve received around 30,000 Syrians and stateless Palestinians from Syria in the three years since the conflict began. We are expecting more and more to come. We now have about 600 in total each week,” he said.
Mr Ribbenvik said there is nothing complicated about the Swedish approach to asylum seekers.
“What we are doing is following international law, European law and the national law,” Ribbenvik told me by phone last week. “The law is very clear on this. You should give protection to people in need of protection.”
The decision to grant permanent residency to all Syrians came after a Swedish government re-assessment of the Syrian war.
“We had temporary permits to a great extent in the past in short conflicts but we are assessing this to be a very long conflict. We are talking about 10 years. Living in those (temporary) conditions for a long time would be very difficult,” said Ribbenvik.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Australian authorities talked like this. Instead Scott Morrison plans to re-introduce three year Temporary Permanent Protection Visas that can be extended under no circumstances. It is only in the fantasy world of Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison that all the current conflicts will go away in three years, and these people will be able to go home and take up where they left off.
Sadly the real world does not follow the same script. Remember that other believer in fantasy worlds, George W Bush, ten years ago claiming victory in Iraq after one year of hostilities.
And now the cruellest joke of all – asylum seekers from Nauru and Manus Island will be given the opportunity of permanent settlement in Cambodia! Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world with a government that is one of the most corrupt. Much of the aid that has poured into Cambodia over the past 25 years has found its way into the coffers of people associated with the Hun Sen regime that has ruled that country all that time with an iron fist.
It is only nine months ago that Australia condemned Cambodia’s human rights record at the United Nations. How quickly things change. Writing in last Wednesday’s edition of the Phnom Penh Post, Chak Sopheap, Executive Director of the Cambodia Centre for Human Rights, rightly described Australia’ refugee plans as “an affront to human rights”.
Former Chief Justice of the Family Court, the Hon. Alastair Nicholson, last month spoke out against the Cambodia refugee deal on behalf of an alliance consisting of UNICEF Australia, Save the Children, Plan International Australia, World Vision, Amnesty International, Refugee Council of Australia, International Detention Coalition and Children’s Rights International. Mr Nicholson said that the planned deal was “inappropriate, immoral and likely illegal”.
Sadly such criticism is not likely to sway Scott Morrison.
Perhaps wherever we can we should insert the ‘A’ into border. And wouldn’t it be wonderful if, thanks to a gremlin in the Government printery, that future department letterhead proudly announced “Department of Immigration and Boarder Protection”.