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Turnbull's boat ban is crazy and cruel

  • 03 November 2016


'Will this affect my case?' Hassan* was worried about the survey that said nearly 50 per cent of Australians wanted to ban Muslims from migrating to Australia. I was working on his protection visa from Iraq. He had a strong case. 'No,' I replied, perhaps overconfidently.

'Not all Muslims are like Daesh,' he replied using the Arabic acronym for the self-proclaimed Islamic State. ' I fled Iraq to escape those crazy people and the many militias and criminal gangs. I hate them as well, they are not true Muslims.'

Over the years of working with refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan I had learned about some of the many different types of Muslims and Islamic groups and sects.

Like any large religion, there are many variations in practice and beliefs, influenced by cultural and historical events. To simply ban them all is a crazy option. You do not ban everyone just because a small minority are involved in criminal activity. Or so I thought.

Then the Prime Minister announced that there would be a life ban on people coming to Australia if they arrived by boat and were sent to Nauru or Manus Island. This is also clearly crazy, but it has been proposed and now we await the bill for parliament.

Already One nation supports it. This is not surprising, but what is concerning is that a major party has once again adopted the irrational hate and fear politics of One Nation as part of its policy for asylum seekers.

Back in 1996 One Nation advocated temporary protection visas (TPVs) for all refugees. Then Minister Ruddock later criticised the idea: 'The people you bring are very likely to have been tortured, traumatised and in need of support for rebuilding a new life. Can you imagine what temporary entry would do in terms of giving people a chance?' That was in September 1998. In October 1999 he introduced the TPV for boat arrivals.

Despite the TPV being proven, in studies by mental health specialists, to be harmful for a vulnerable group, the Abbott government reintroduced it and made it tougher — with no hope of permanent resettlement or family reunion, except for a small group who need to go through major hurdles. That was unnecessary and deliberately cruel, and I did not think it could be worse until last weekend.


"In 30 years of working with refugees, I can only think of one positive change in the law — the introduction