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Labor worse than Howard on asylum seekers


The design of the Labor Government policy on asylum seekers is now clear. Its overriding aim is to stop asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat. The regional solution is not a solution for the problems faced by refugees but for an Australian political problem. The despatch to Malaysia and Manus Island of people who arrive by boat is about deterrence.

This development was probably inevitable from the day before the last election when Prime Minister Gillard adumbrated a regional solution focused on East Timor that would ensure asylum seekers would be processed overseas. The lure of a regional agreement muted the criticism of many people working with asylum seekers. It became easy to overlook the ethical implications of the promise.

Those implications are also now clear. Effectively, Australia is excluding from the right to claim protection a group of people who flee to Australia to escape persecution. Instead it will condemn them to treatment that amounts to an abuse of their human dignity. The mental illness developed by those on PNG and the hopelessness of existence in Malaysia, with its attendant cruelties, will deter others from trying to come to Australia by boat. Human beings are being punished in order to achieve broader policy goals.

This should lead people concerned for asylum seekers to reflect on how we have come to this and what we can learn from it.

The promise of the Government to negotiate with Malaysia conditions that respect and monitor the human rights of asylum seekers is a see-through fig leaf. From the Australian perspective the asylum seekers will be in the same position as other asylum seekers in Malaysia, unable to claim protection. From the Malaysian perspective they are items traded by Australia — why should it be more concerned for their humanity than Australia has been?

In its treatment of asylum seekers the Labor Government has not only returned to the worse features of the Howard Government. It has gone beyond it in betraying the central principle underlying any ethical refugee policy, namely that asylum seekers should not be sent to places where there is no guarantee that they will not face persecution.

One can only imagine what the Coalition Government that will most likely follow the next election will build on this abrogation of principle.

These latest developments also invite reflection how refugee advocates and their agencies should deal with government. The coloured wrapping on the rotten apple of refugee policy can distract us from focusing on what really matters. In this case, it is naturally attractive to be part of designing a regional solution that would improve the ultimate lot of refugees, with all the intellectual excitement and closeness to government that goes with it.

Well-designed regional agreements are certainly desirable and are worth contributing to. But the fact that the  Government's support for a regional agreement has always been about preventing asylum seekers from claiming asylum in Australia should temper enthusiasm for it.

Ultimately, for those concerned for asylum seekers, one thing matters in relationships with government, and one only. That is the welfare and human dignity of the actual human beings who are asylum seekers.

The preservation of Christmas Island as the primary processing centre, the failure to pass adumbrated legislation that improved the treatment of asylum seekers, their continued routine detention, the suspension of processing, the renewed detention of minors, the carting around Australia without notice of asylum seekers and the establishment of centres in remote parts of Australia, have all been inconsistent with respect for human dignity.

Those who speak for refugees need publicly and uncompromisingly to insist that the policy and the diminishment of vulnerable people that follows from it are unacceptable. They should also insist that the goals of such a policy not dominate the shape of regional agreements.

In Australia the normal form of cooperation of asylum seeker representatives with government will be to minimise harm. It is proper to cooperate in order to lessen the suffering of people affected by bad government policy. It is quite another matter to be silent about the evils of that policy in order to remain part of the conversation with government, still less in order to have a part in administering a destructive policy.

To focus on what matters is never easy. It is the more difficult in a field on which you will never make a lasting difference. Those who want asylum seekers in Australia to be treated justly and humanely will have small victories and huge defeats. A few boats will bring down whatever small gains have been made with great labour towards a humane and reasonable policy.

Asylum seekers are familiar with failure and misrepresentation throughout their lives. Their friends will experience the same things.  Commitment must be for the long haul. 

Andrew HamiltonAndrew Hamilton is consulting editor of Eureka Street

Topic tags: Andrew Hamilton, Malaysia Solution, Manus Island, asylum seekers, refugees, boat people



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Existing comments

Andrew you are able to sum up all the frustration, regret, anger and fear I feel about this issue. Thank you

Peter C | 23 May 2011  

Thank you, Andrew, for this incisive summation of where we are.

I continue to fight on what some may see as a side issue but which to me is part of the same moral envelope - Australia's accountability for the safety of lives of people on asylum-seeker boats as they come through the sea gap between Indonesia and Christmas Island/Ashmore Reef. This sea gap is closely and usually efficiently monitored by a multi-layered, partially secret, Australian radar system. The government still tries to have it both ways: SIEV boats exist if they come in, but they sre deemed not to exist if they break down or sink in international waters on the way - even though such fscts would be known to the system. In those cases, human lives in peril don't seem to matter - 'this is not our problem'.

tony kevin | 23 May 2011  

I guess I should be ashamed that I felt the regional agreement with a country like Malaysia, Thailand or PNG would have been helpful. It would be good to be able to discuss refugee issues without the ghost of 'protecting the border' always present. I believe that the boat arrivals make the issue of asylum seekers irrational and should be put to rest permanently. Therefore - either we accept the responsibility of being a signatory to the UN's declaration on protection of refugees, or we throw it all away on the pretext that we are protecting ourselves, or are being invaded by horded of boat arrivals. At the moment, Iran has a better record of human rights than we have - they have huge numbers of refugees, eg from Afghanistan and other places. So has Malaysia. It is easy to criticise them, but we are pretty awful ourselves.

I am sick of what this government is doing, in my name, to men, women and children who have suffered so much and have committed the crime of seeking compassion from Australia. Why are my anger and my pleas be so easily pushed aside in the name of 'protecting the border'?

Eveline Goy | 23 May 2011  

Andrew, I can only echo Peter's comment Thank you.

Margaret Press Bathurst | 23 May 2011  

Is this article for real, or is someone losing their marbles?

1. Whatever fancy name we give these people, they are still "illegal immigrants". They have broken current Australian law and must bear the consequences. Certainly they must be treated with dignity, any criminal must be, but also firmly.

2. As I understand it, most of the boats come from Indonesia. From what "persecution" in Indonesia are they fleeing?

3. It has always seemed odd to me that those who are so desperately fleeing persecution have a ready $10,000, $15,000, or whatever the large figure is, to pay for the ride.

4. For all of this wailing and gnashing of teeth about Australian policy, I have yet to see proposed by any of the usual suspects a single, real, practical, workable solution to the current dilemma. Either we throw open our doors to anyone and everyone, or we have restrictions. If restrictions, then how are they to work? How are we to treat those who try to circumvent those restrictions? Actual, practical measures, please, not just blind condemnation of current efforts, Labor or Coalition.

John R. Sabine | 23 May 2011  

I agree with you Peter, and wonder if those of us who abhor this terrible development can join together to try to persuade the government to behave more reasonably and fairly? If ever there was a time to act ...

Alison Corke | 23 May 2011  

Brilliant piece Andrew.Gillard's decision to take the gutter option by sending vulnerable refugees and their families to Malaysia is despicable and shameful. Rather than lead the nation to the high moral ground by helping refugees who in desperation arrive by boat, she exploits the pathetic boat smuggling card to pamper the racist minority. She is worse than Howard. Who'd have thought! anyone could be worse.

Dr Vacy Vlazna | 23 May 2011  

Thanks Andrew. It's a bitter truth. By the time Howard was at the end of his time, I and others felt ashamed to be Australian. Rudd offered the hope that we might regain our pride. But as your hard hitting piece shows, it was a false hope.

From the beginning Rudd's government was preoccupied with looking over its shoulder for the ghost of Howard. So, instead of exposing Tony Abbott's dishonest populism (the numbers of people involved do not constitute a threat - look at what Europe is handling!) and attacking Scott Morrison's ruthless disregard for the humanity of asylum seekers, Julia Gillard closes her eyes to everything but electoral considerations and sends people back to a cruel future in Malaysia. Our self-respect as a nation has reached bottom again. Europe's humane approach is a lesson in decency.

Joe Castley | 23 May 2011  

Sadly, there is a powerful and ballot-box dangerous body of voters supporting the ‘stop the boats at all costs’ moves by our timorous and self-serving politicians. When push comes to shove they will savagely outnumber the liberal humanitarians.

Clearly, it is time to add a new day to our list of annual celebrations. This super-day will be a day that will unite every true-blue, dinky-di, Arnott's biscuit chomping, Fosters Lager sucking, meat pie loving, cricket and footy watching, good-on-you-mate Aussie. The day I speak of is, of course: National Xenophobia Day.

If the truth will set us free perhaps we should add a little something to the Prayer for the faithful each Sunday: Face United Breweries at dawn and dusk and repeat the following in a loud, raucous voice: ‘From cloth head, dago, wop and wog, Julia Gillard deliver us’.

Then, possibly, the cowards of Canberra would do the ‘right’ thing and repudiate the international refugee agreements that cause much pain and dump our national, threadbare, humanitarian disguise, show us as we really are and bugger the foreign devils.

Dermott Ryder | 23 May 2011  

Andy is right that Labor in government appears to be going beyond the worst aspects of the Howard Government on asylum seekers, however I think it is time the Australian people as a collective group took responsibility for this movement towards the extreme.

Plenty of "educated" and "moderate" Australians have left the playing field of rational discussion on asylum seeker policy and forfeited the ground to the rabid fringes. Try even having a sensible discussion about this topic at middle class gatherings and aside from a few comments applauding the courage of asylum seekers, most parrot myths and misconceptions or bid a retreat from the discussion.

Sure, we should blame succesive governments, but unfortunately they are only representative of national sentiment. What are we doing as individuals in our homes, families and local communities to change this sentiment today?

Tom Cranitch | 23 May 2011  

I disagree. It seems that the Julia Gillard Government finally has found a way to reduce the income of the people smuggling industry and to save lives. I am sure it will save lives and it will help true refugees getting a future.

Julia Gillard is helping to make it fairer.

Beat Odermatt | 23 May 2011  

How to get your succint message to the Australian electorate is THE challenge of this year.

Very costly barriers have been put in place by politicians for 30 years who think they know that most Australians want to turn back asylum seeking foreigners.Without really understanding who they are and why they risk their lives. Time for a
"smoking is dangerous to health" type saturation advertising telling us that asylum seeking is legal and we can and will manage it humanely?

We have Immigration Officers assisting Thai, Malaysian and Indonesian airport officials detect and stop asylum seekers proceeding to Australia by air;millions are donated to regional governments and the AFP to disrrupt the transit routes taken by asylum seekers who know that only Australia in the region offers the hope of permanent protection. It's true, we do fund UNHCR and the IOM to register and sort of sustain those stopped in Malaysia or Indonesia. It costs multiple millions, but falls short of resources needed. Customs and Defence departments patrol northern waters at enormous cost ($B3.3?), and where their role for a brief period was to rescue,now it will again be for interception and removal to another country.

Backwards we go, back to the exploitation of Nauru's failed economy and the commodification of humnan beings.Things to be moved and traded.

A significant shift in media coverage has taken place with the so called Malaysian Solution. Prime focus has turned to people:800 of our asylum seekers, 83 000 Burmese refugees in Malaysia, a possible 100 000 more unregistered asylum seekers there.An unknown number in Indonesia. Little chatter about the number of boats or the few evil,exploitive boat operators. Indonesian crew members have become an administrative and diplomatic embarrasment.

And that is good, because Malaysia and Indonesia as transit countries should not be left with hundreds of thousands of human beings surviving somehow outside their own countries who, for fear of more persecution cannot return to their homes. Australia needs to prove it is a good neighbour through more than a 1000 place increase in the refugee quota - bringing it to 7 000 pa for the next four years (And then what?).

Tony Abbott had it right for the wrong reasons when he offered Andrew Wilkie a doubling of the Humanitarian Program for the Independent's political support. And Sarah Hanson Young is on course when she identifies inhumane mandatory detention of asylum seekers as the root cause of the mess we are in. And Colin Murty on Christmas Island makes an invaluable contribution through his photos which show us a few of the men women and children our politicians find expendable.

Frederika Steen | 23 May 2011  

Thanks Andrew, helpful article on a wretched, shameful and disappointing state of affairs. PB

Trisha Bouma | 23 May 2011  

Kevin Rudd failed to deliver on his claimed compassion for asylum seekers. Julia Gillard has also failed to deliver on her more limited claims of compassion. The Opposition has never claimed any compassion. Seems the politicians are happy to reinforce some shameful prejudices in Australian society rather than offer any leadership in this human tragedy which has been misrepresented as a serious challenge to Australia's immigration policy. We are treating desperate but highly motivated people (who are potentially model citizens as past refugee experience should have taught us) as less than human. This is a matter of values and social justice on which we might have expected some strong leadership from the churches, if not the politicians. Surely the mission of Christian churches is to apply Christ's messages of love? Thanks, Andy, for this valuable and much-needed contribution of informed values-based leadership.

Peter Johnstone | 23 May 2011  

I have just written to my local member (Labor) to inform her that I will not be voting for Labor at the next election. I will instead be voting for the Greens who do have a conscience.

Tim Collier | 23 May 2011  

Thank you so much. Would it be possible that given our country's xenophobic attitude to refugees and asylum seekers you might considering sending articles like this to our local rural media to keep a positive attitude to balance what is before our community eyes and ears everyday. Blessings Pat Linnane Bathurst Refugge Support Group media officer

Sr Pat Linnane | 23 May 2011  

John R Sabine, your assertion that these people are 'illegal' is simply not true. Firstly, under international law they have the right to seek asylum from persecution or the disasters of war - and by any measure of Christian charity, or basic human decency, we have the obligation to respond to their plight. Secondly, the numbers are so small that your fearing that we'll be swamped by unlimited numbers is baseless. Europe has been coping humanely with enormous numbers from the Middle East and now from Africa for years. You simply need to know the situation much better.

Joe Castley | 23 May 2011  

Andy expresses the despair of those working in the area. For the record John - they are not 'illegal', there is no offence in arriving in Australia without a visa. Detention is an administrative law process - not a criminal penalty. Commonly families pool their resources so 1 can get out, I cannot see why this is a problem, I would do the same. The solution has been discussed many times by Andy, myself, Frank Brennan etc... it includes: a fair legal process - whether on Xmas Island or mainland Australia and move away from mandatory detention.

Kerry Murphy | 23 May 2011  

John Sabine says that asylum claimants are criminals who must "face consequences". If this is true, they should be charged and allowed access to defense lawyers. You can't imprison criminals without a charge, without a trial, and without a sentence.

skip | 23 May 2011  

Well said Andrew Hamilton, the article is spot on, past government and present government are no different, disgusting treatment of humans, they are only worried about political gains and not about anything else. Also in reply to a person stating "they are still "illegal immigrants". They have broken current Australian law and must bear the consequences", you are wrong they have not broken any Australian laws or internationals!!! They are not 'illegal'! People who arrive here with no documents are not illegal and they are not criminals; they are asylum seekers, a legal status under Australian and international law. An illegal is someone who has moved from one state to another without any legal claim, Asylum seekers are not illegal immigrants. They are applying for asylum, which means they are complying with Australian law too.

Vanessa M | 23 May 2011  

I believe that this government has forgotten about human rights and are using the asylum seekers as a weapon only to retain government. They should be educating the population about the needs of this very vulnerable group of people so that the ignorant and racist elements in our country receive correct information. I feel ill every time the P.M. or Minister speaks of how we must "save these people from the dangers of travelling here". That could easily be avoided with good will at MUCH less cost than imprisoning them, moving them off shore and around the countryside. Refugees in my experience make very good citizens providing they are given adequate settlement services.

Gwen Gorman | 23 May 2011  

So, John Sabine, refugees have broken current Australian law and must bear the consequences. And I suppose anti-government demonstrators in Syria have broken current Syrian law and must bear the consequences. O for a political party that has compassion for both refugees and the unborn. Is there one?

Gavan | 23 May 2011  

It is easy to see which Government policies are good and which policies are bad. If the loony fringe of the ultra-left and the Greens howl foul and their hypocritical hangers –on cry about injustice, then we know the Government has made a good decision. It is bad for all the people smugglers if their flourishing trade in humans slows down. It is bad for some professional “human right advocates” as another income stream becomes smaller. The recent Julia Gillard decision is good news for real refugees. Tens of thousands of them have been waiting decades for a change to come to Australia. Many of them come from poor countries like Bhutan. These people have no rich “friends” able to finance an expensive boat trip to Australia. The people traders may have to look at other countries perceived as a “soft touch”. We can hope that we don’t witness any more sad tragedies, where boats sunk and lives were lost. It seems for a change Government policies are getting closer to common sense and the will of the people.

Beat Odermatt | 23 May 2011  

Thank you, Andrew, for this incisive summation of where we are. I continue to fight on what some may see as a side issue but which to me is part of the same moral envelope - Australia's accountability for the safety of lives of people on asylum-seeker boats as they come through the sea gap between Indonesia and Christmas Island/Ashmore Reef. This sea gap is closely and usually efficiently monitored by a multi-layered, partially secret, Australian radar system. The government still tries to have it both ways: SIEV boats exist if they come in, but they are deemed not to exist if they break down or sink in international waters on the way - even though such facts would be known to the system. In those cases, human lives in peril don't seem to matter - 'this is not our problem'.

tony kevin | 23 May 2011  

This abrogation of humanitarian principles by a Labor government is, by any measure, not only unacceptable but also signals the abandonment of its fundamental principles on social justice. It also shows that Australia's major parties are more concerned in appeasing the John Sabines of our world. Australia with an economy that is the envy of the industrial world, a population of less than 22 million, growing fatter everyday in a real estate that is larger than Western Europe is showing all the signs of global self indulgence, rejecting climate change and following Tony "abbottabad" Abbott's mantra by stopping the boats. The tragedy is that it's still the better place to live. Remember that we elect the government we have. The tragedy is that the so-called alternative is worst than the incumbent on the matter of asylum seekers. To redeem itself, this government should pull all stops and squash the lies that are spread by shock-jocks, the Murdoch press and associated extreme right-wing groups. Take the bold step albeit electorally unpopular, by processing asylum seekers on Australian soil. There is enough intelligence to seek out the false from the genuine refugees. At the same, time ensure that every effort will be done to process some of them at the source by engaging bi-lateral agreements with the (host) countries concerned. Our credentials in our region are good - thanks to Rudd's effort -.All of this are not beyond the realm of possibilities. It can be done. All it needs is the political will and courage.

Alex Njoo | 23 May 2011  

Andrew's article sums up the feelings of utter failure many of us involved in refugee/asylum seeker advocacy feel about this situation. Both parties perceive it as a political problem, not as a humanitarian issue. The Gillard Governmnet has fully embraced most of the Howard era policies and now seeks to deny opportunity to claim asylum, in clear contravention of the whole principle of the Convention. We are not only causing psychological harm to vulnerable people, we are undermining the international protection framework upon which so many depend.

Kate | 23 May 2011  

Asylum seekers who bypass Malaysia and Indonesia where they can seek asylum are not true asylum seekers. Their lives ceased to be at risk once they landed in Malaysia or Indonesia. That is the issue that bleeding hearts leftists refuse to see, but one the broader Australian public recognize only too well.

Joan Dexter | 23 May 2011  

Anyone else notice Andrew only runs posts that compliment him on his writing and one -sided political stances?

Brian Haill - Melbourne | 23 May 2011  

obviously Labor is too fast to let others know - it is crowing before the victory is still at a distance!

Labor can't keep secret. It's just responding everything like kids talking at each others.

So now it's being a bullied kid - both at home and abroad.

AZURE | 23 May 2011  

Thank you for the comments on my article. A few responses.

Evelyn, your attraction to a regional agreement was and is commendable, as is the work to make it happen. But it must be a regional agreement that protects and respects the dignity of refugees, not simply one that keeps asylum seekers out of Australia.

John, others have answered your assertions better than I could. I have only a question to put to you? Would you speak as harshly of Jewish families who 'illegally' entered France and Belgium to escape from Hitler's persecution? And if not, why not?

Tom and Frederika, I agree with you that the critical challenge we face is to sway public opinion to a consistently realistic and compassionate attitude to refugees. Without that, governments will adopt populist policies. But we are also entitled to hope for leadership from political leaders to help mould public opinion. Courage of this sort has been lacking in Australia.

Joan, it is true that asylum seekers are not actually killed in Indonesia, and only infrequently in Malaysia. But is there not more to respecting human dignity than not being killed? It would seem a poor epitaph for our national character to write, 'She never actually killed anyone.'

Andy Hamilton | 23 May 2011  

It was largely because of this that a friend of mine had as his facebook status a week ago "I'm concerned Labor has forgotten that if you want people to vote for the lesser of two evils, you actually have to be a little less evil."

john fox | 23 May 2011  

Christmas comes early. We party on and there's no room at the inn.

John | 24 May 2011  

I read the report Paul Powers is quoting from and have analysed the graphs in comparison to "plane arrivals" and the results show clear and utter discrimination that niot even DIAC could deny.

One major example - in 2009/10 Afghans who arrived by plane had a primary acceptance rate of 86.2% while the final rate was 95% but "boat" people had a primary acceptance of 78% and final acceptance of 99.7%. It gets worse in the first part of the final year 10/11 when the plane acceptances are 62.5% with final at 74.4% compared with the figures given of 24% for "boat" people with that 86% rate of wrong decisions.

For Iranians - 2009/10 by plane it was 88% on pirmary decisions with 97.7% on appeal with just 52.6% of "boat" people accepted on primary decisions but 98.3% on appeal. In 2010/11 the figures fall to 49% by plane with 92% final acceptances and bor "boat' people the primary rate fell to just 10% with 73% overturned

Iraqis - Primary by plane in 09/10 91%, final 95.3%, by boat primary acceptances 59% with final rates of 97.3%. In 2010/11 it again reflects the DIAC urge to reject with plane acceptances falling to 66% on primary and 91% on final with only 25% primary acceptance by boat with 70% overturned on appeal.

It is potentially deadly for thousands of innocent people when DIAC play around with their lives in this way and as the "boat" people are being kept in detention for an extra 3-6 months waiting for an appeal it is hideously expensive and costly to human lives. There is simply no way to explain the massive discrepancy between primary rates for "plane people" and "boat people" except government interference.

The opposition and the government need to play by the rules because if any other department was as consistently wrong as DIAC it would be cleaned out and the secretary sacked.

I have long called them the departmen to of ignorant criminals, I now rest my case.

Marilyn Shepherd | 24 May 2011  

Thank you Andrew and I am proud to add my name to the litany of support in these comments.

The Brisbane Archdiocese Justice and Peace Commission has published a series of media releases about the plight of asylum seekers most recently in March 2011: http://cjpcbrisbane.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/government-must-change-detention-policy/

Tony Robertson | 24 May 2011  

What can we as Australians expect...The Liberals are given maximum coverage in all media to "Scream we will stop the boats"..(How???.) an d the polls have no room for Truth or Charity...Our country is dire need of a "Statesman". alas ..there is not one in sight.

john m costigan | 24 May 2011  

Thank you Andrew and also to all those who offered words of support and agreed with the thrust of his remarks. These responses return some sense of hope to a very disillusioned citizen of this shamed country.

It seems that our representatives in Parliament are just as weak-kneed as the so-called leaders who have been running scared ever since Howard paid obeisance to a certain fish & chip shop proprietor.

Brian Larsson | 24 May 2011  

Congratulations to Andrew for his clear and strong words on asylum-seeker policy, or rather the LACK of a humane, forward-looking or significant government contribution. Australia should be pointing the way for other host nations but will instead be pointed at in disappointment if not disgust.

Robin Pryor | 24 May 2011  

Thanks so much for your excellent article, Andy. A number of contributors are concerned to uphold "the law" when dealing with refugees. So, is it true that refugees and asylum seekers are "illegally" present here? Australia is a party to the Refugee Convention 1951. Whether a person is a refugee is a question of fact (Art.1) In addition, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Art.14) specifically allows people to seek asylum. Under Australia's own Migration Act 1958(Cth) - s.36 - we acknowledge that Australia has "protection obligations" to refugees under that Convention. The core of the Convention is Art.33(1), which reads as follows: “No Contracting State shall expel or return (‘refouler’) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.” Neither Australia nor Indonesia are parties to the Convention. If Australia sends a person who is, in fact, a refugee (whether they have had the chance to prove it or not) to one of these countries and that person is endangered as a result, it is not the refugee who is acting illegally.

Justin Glyn | 25 May 2011  

Congratuations Andrew - I too was disappointed in the immoral plans to send refugees out of sight and out of mind. However I do think we must keep on fighting against the anti refugee propaganda coming from and politicians and media. i had a letter published in our local paper last week defending refugees. I was nervous that I might have rocks thrown on my roof - instead I had lots of positive comments from neighbours and acquaintances. I wonder if compassionate prople are the silent majority drowned out by the noisy shockjocks and politician!

Cathy Cleary | 25 May 2011  

Correction to my last post: It should have read "Neither MALAYSIA nor Indonesia are parties to the Convention."

Justin Glyn | 25 May 2011  

Looks like the Murdoch ranters have finally realised what is going on and are running the caning video - the Tele even said we cannot send one person to Malaysia if they face caning.

Marilyn Shepherd | 26 May 2011  

To take up such journey into the unknown mast be real desperation. Now that they are here, we inflict more traumas on to them. What is the purpose being locked up for so long, what are we teaching them? Not compassion! They are human beings like you and I? If they can't stay send them beck don't let them suffer for years, this is cruel. If they are to stay do the paper work and let them go in to community.In any situation whale they are waiting, give them something to do, work, some responsibility, learning English, let them earn some self respect. Production = moral. It is our problem now, they came to ask for help. We all came from somewhere to Australia but some of us forgot it. Thank you.

Marica Braga | 26 May 2011  

In my view, the issue of boat refugees heading to this country should be put in perspective by radio talkback shockjocks and commercial media in general: it is a non issue, as there are relatively so few of them. Government would then not overreact.

It is appalling that this country will send unfortunates and innocents to Malaysia, which is not even a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention. There is no justification for us to do this. It is criminal, and brings shame upon us all.

LouW | 27 May 2011  

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