Monday, December 29, 2003

Howard's naked exploitation of racism for narrow political advantage: "This year has been overshadowed by the continuing, cruel and completely purposeless Howard Government treatment of the 10,000 or so unfortunate human beings who, between 1999 and 2001, sought refuge in Australia from the tyrannies of Saddam Hussein or the Taliban or from the Iranian theocratic state. A little under 9000 of these people, found to be genuine refugees, are being asked to prove for a second time their protection needs. If they fail, most face deportation to the chaos and the danger of post-invasion Afghanistan or Iraq. Hundreds of those whose asylum claims, for one reason or another, originally failed, but who are too frightened to return to their homelands, have now been languishing in Australia's detention prisons for several years. A further 300 or so asylum seekers have spent the past two years in hell, imprisoned in the tropical detention camp on Nauru. Among the detainees in Australia and Nauru are more than 200 children, whose lives have slowly been destroyed.

"The mercilessness of the Howard Government policy has been revealed by two brutally frank judicial comments in recent weeks. In the High Court, the Solicitor-General, David Bennett QC, pointed out that there was no reason in law why asylum seekers might not be detained 'until hell freezes over', that is to say, for the remainder of their lives. In the same court, Justice McHugh pointed out that there was no legal impediment to the repatriation of asylum seekers, even to certain death. In Australian history the disconnectedness between law and justice has rarely been stated with such little embarrassment. Of all Western societies, Australia is now almost alone in having no asylum claims from unauthorised arrivals. Since Tampa, there has been, quite simply, no asylum seeker 'problem' here. By offering permanent homes to refugees on temporary visas and to those presently indefinitely detained in Australia or on Nauru, absolutely nothing would be lost - but 10,000 lives would be redeemed. Surely for 2004 this is not too extravagant a hope."

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