25 November 2012

Julian Burnside on bridging visas

Refugee and human rights advocate Julian Burnside is no more impressed by the Government’s latest degradation of our approach to asylum seekers than I am.

In a post to The Conversation, 23 November 2012, entitled Bridging visas send refugee policy further down the wrong track (see here) he writes (correctly):

Almost everything that has happened in refugee policy over the past 11 years has been informed and supported by dishonest rhetoric. Specifically, calling boat people “illegals” and “queue-jumpers” is not only false, it is calculated to prejudice the public against a tiny group of weak, vulnerable people who deserve our help, not our hatred.

While critical of both sides of politics, he levels his sharpest criticism at the Coalition:

The poison was started by John Howard, but it is still streaked through the Coalition rhetoric. Earlier this week Tony Abbott shamelessly referred to boat-people as “illegals”, and spoke of them entering Australia “illegally”. Either his policies are founded on a gross misunderstanding of the facts, or he is being dishonest. With him, it’s hard to tell.

To be clear: it is not illegal to come to Australia without papers and seek asylum. Boat-people do not commit any offence by their manner of arrival.

Later in the piece:

Boat people do not represent a failure of border control. Around 4 million people cross our borders with permission each year (mostly for tourism, business or study). If 20,000 boat people get here this year without authority, it will mean that border control is successful 99.5% of the time.

It takes a special form of deceit to reframe this as a “failure of border control”. Let me make my meaning clear: members of the Coalition who criticise boat arrivals as a failure of border control are either dishonest or so utterly uninformed that they should not speak publicly on the subject.

Read the piece in full here.

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