Collective punishment; unnecessarily making refugee A wait in a camp because refugee B arrived by boat or plane

Well, of course, if we play the refugees off against each other:

Stopping boats has appeal on the queue

…Rajab bears no ill will to those who take boats to Australia. He knows families who have done just that, and he would do it himself if he had the money and the opportunity.

But he would be happy if the Australian government stopped the boats, if it meant more places were opened up for long-term refugees like him and his family.

”Everybody has their own perspective,” he says. ”If you take people from the boats, that means other people will not be accepted … shut the door completely and you will discourage these people and encourage more people through the UNHCR.

“That means other people will not be accepted” – why? Only because we let our government link the two programs, instead of treating the two intakes as completely separate.

We let the government punish refugees waiting in camps for those who arrive by boat or overstay visas.

Why do we insist on doing that? There aren’t so many people arriving by boat or overstaying visas that they’re “flooding” the country or something and we need to make up the numbers by taking it out on the most vulnerable. The policy that punishes refugee A for the actions of refugee B is – well, it’s collective punishment. It’s wrong. It is unnecessary, and it is cruel.

And then to tell refugee A not to blame us, blame the other people as desperate as they are, go take it up with them – it’s utterly repugnant.

The story above, in today’s Sydney Morning Herald, sickens me.

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8 responses to “Collective punishment; unnecessarily making refugee A wait in a camp because refugee B arrived by boat or plane

  1. jordanrastrick

    “That means other people will not be accepted” – why? Only because we let our government link the two programs, instead of treating the two intakes as completely separate.

    Why should they be treated separately? I naturally agree our intake is too low and that we’d be able to take substantially more than the people arriving by boat alone. But do you think we have a finite capacity to absorb the worlds refugees? I do, and I’d be considered extremist by most people on this (I’d start by multiplying our intake tenfold with a view to doubling it another couple of times depending on how that worked out.)

    If you do think we should be accepting some number less than all possible applicants, then at the margin, at some point you need to choose between someone on a boat/plane, and someone in a camp. I think its preferable to choose the person in the camp, for various reasons that have been discussed at length in the other threads.

    Do you?

  2. “Why should they be treated separately?”

    Because punishing refugee B for the actions of refugee A is unjust?

    “But do you think we have a finite capacity to absorb the worlds refugees?”

    Sure, but the number we’ve picked isn’t close to that capacity. There’s no justification for punishing those in the formal program for the asylum seekers who arrive another way.

    “at some point you need to choose between someone on a boat/plane, and someone in a camp.”

    We’re not even CLOSE to that point.

    “I think its preferable to choose the person in the camp, for various reasons that have been discussed at length in the other threads.

    Do you?”

    I think it’s preferable to treat them as completely separate intakes. It requires a positive evil on our part to imprison someone for arriving here, or chuck them back overseas to a dangerous camp. That’s something we should not be doing, full stop. We’re adding to the evils of the world there.

    Meanwhile, we might not be able to solve all the evils of the world in taking on every refugee, but we could certainly do more than we do to help people arrive here safely and after a much shorter wait.

    But we don’t have to do the former to do the latter.

  3. I agree that collective punishment, especially for people who have not been connected of a crime, simply to deter other people from the same act useful.

    I also thinks this plays into the hand so of people who believe there is a “queue”. The reality is that countries like Australia pick and choose who to accept, regardless of who has been in the queue the longest.

  4. The more I think about this the more I come to realise that the real question is “what number should we define as Australia’s refugee limit?” and not whether or not the programs are linked.

    As Jordan has pointed out, whether you think our annual limit should be 14,000 or 140,000 you would still favour linking the two programs, becuase if you didn’t then you would effectively be unable to keep the numbers within your limit.

  5. jordanrastrick

    I think it’s preferable to treat them as completely separate intakes

    This makes no sense if you agree there is a limit to how many refugees we should be accepting. Its like saying “the federal health budget should be a completely separate issue to the federal education budget”. You might like that to be the case, but in the end, the funds are going to be drawn from the same pool; the choice doesn’t go away simply because you don’t want to make it, or because there are other easier choices you’d make first, like cutting the defence budget.

    1) Disregarding the current policy status quo, do you think there should be some limit on our intake of refugees?

    2) If so, then do you accept that, clearly, the intake from boats/planes must be added to the intake from UNHCR resettlement to arrive at our total intake, which is what is checked against the limit?

    3) I think it is clear that, morally, we should accept as many people as is possible within the constraints of 1). Should we continue to strongly preference boat/plane arrivals, as we do currently?

    For instance, I say we should take maybe 200,000 refugees per annum, at least until we see how well we are able to cope. I would choose to take all 200,000 people from UNHCR camps where possible; that might be achieved by a series of Malaysia solution like swaps with countries that can give firm guarantees on human rights.

  6. jordanrastrick

    Will Jeremy, or anyone else who wants to argue we can treat UNHCR resettlements and plane/boat arrivals completely separately, answer my questions 1-3 above?

  7. 1. Yes, but we’re nowhere near it.
    2. No, because the point of it is that those are unplanned arrivals. They’re emergencies. They’re outside the ordinary, planned immigration system. We should deal with those situations entirely separately (particularly since they’re comparatively tiny compared with overall immigration).
    3. We don’t. We preference plane arrivals, but boat arrivals we imprison as if they were criminals.

  8. jordanrastrick

    Regarding 1, that we’re nowhere near our capacity to take refugees is not in dispute.

    Regarding 2, so if we say our limit of UNHCR resettlement is 50,000, and 300,000 people turn up by boat or plane as an “emergency”, we resettle 350,000 people that year? Do you believe in a population policy with a targeted level of growth? I do, and I’m a Cornucopian FFS. Given such a policy, how would you deal with fluctuations in unplanned arrivals?

    Regarding 3, I’m not referring to the treatment of refugees while their applications are being processed, I’m referring to preference in who we even give the chance to obtain a resettlement visa. We consider something like 10,000 UNHCR refugees for resettlement out of something like 10 million – hence the the queue being a myth. Whereas every single asylum seeker who arrives here by boat or plane is currently considered for resettlement.

    Stop hiding behind “the current system is awful and inhumane”. I’m not here to defend it; I’m interested in the ideal system, what you (or others) would do if benevolent dictator, if you will. How many refugees would you accept, where would you source them from, and most pointedly why will you consider the applications of 100% of the people who have the means to travel to this country, but only 0.1% of the people who don’t?

    Surely after acknowledging that the xenophobe’s much vaunted queue does not in fact exist, the humane and just response given pragmatic constraints becomes “we should create a queue”.

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