If there’s one thing more absurd than the prospect of a government losing an election because it’s not nasty enough to refugees (and, let’s give Labor its dues here, it is trying really hard to be), it’s the hideous gall of the people who pretend that they only want us to damn the refugees in order to “save” them.
We only want to drag them back out to sea on leaky boats because we care!
We only want to deport them to countries with limited legal protections because we want to keep them safe!
We only want to imprison them indefinitely without charge because we care for their wellbeing!
It’s a crock. And you can tell it’s a crock because the laws they call for don’t mention refugees’ safety at all. Their advocates use refugees’ safety as a rhetorical crutch in debates, but when it comes to the crunch, for what are the diabolical “people smugglers” prosecuted?
Not for dangerous boats. Not for safety violations.
Just for bringing these desperate people here from places where they’re in danger. (Much more danger, for the record, than any boat trip, which is why they’re willing to take the risk.)
If we really cared about the safety of refugees, we’d distinguish between people smugglers who willfully, sociopathically put them in danger on non-seaworthy boats, and those whose boats are seaworthy and run responsibly. The offence would be to run vessels that unnecessarily endanger life (which of course should be a crime) – not to help asylum seekers reach a place of refuge (which of course shouldn’t). Helping asylum seekers reach a place of refuge is a noble thing. It was a noble thing when the refugees were Jews fleeing Nazi Germany – it’s a noble thing now.
Because if we were to start making a distinction between those people smugglers who don’t care about refugees’ lives and those who do, then there’d be an incentive (apart from the moral one, obviously) for the boats that come to be safer. Unlike the “leave them in dangerous camps where we don’t have to care” approach, it would save lives. Sure, a few more asylum seekers might get here in one piece – but isn’t that a good thing? Weren’t we saying we were doing this out of concern for their safety?
Of course we were. So how could that outcome upset us? We’re not selfish pricks who’ve benefited from the massive (unearned) good fortune of being born in one of the most privileged countries in the world but who want the far less fortunate to keep their suffering and dying to refugee camps in South-East Asia where we don’t have to hear about it, are we?
No, of course we’re not.
So let’s hear the two big parties advocating my solution: breaking the model of people smugglers who put lives at risk, by rewarding those people smugglers who look after their customers.
And while we’re at it, could the government remember the people for whom it’s supposed to be regulating the prostitution industry? Because stories like that of Jetsadophorn “Ning” Chaladone, seem to indicate that it’s forgotten. When the government finally raided the Sydney brothel where Ning had been raped repeatedly since the age of 13, was it the police coming to charge the proprietor with rape and slavery charges? No, it was Immigration, coming to send the victims – the women – back overseas. It was Immigration, reminding other enslaved women that if they go to authorities, it will be they who were punished.
I am heartily sick of hearing the heartless justify cruelty to the most vulnerable people in our society on the basis that they’re really interested in “protecting” them.
That’s not what their words and actions reveal.