Scott Morrison has finally deigned to provide the Australian community with some detail around his border protection efforts.
As it turns out, he hasn’t stopped the boats; he’s simply turned them back.
Like all Australians, we are relieved that it has been many months since there has been a death at sea.
But that’s where the good news ends.
Today, there are still thousands of asylum seekers locked away in detention centres, struggling to maintain their sanity and their health on a daily basis. They have no idea how long they’ll be there or where they will end up.
Two young men, Reza Berati and Hamid Kehazaei, lost their lives in these facilities.
There are thousands more living half lives in our community, without income, without the right to work, without a home, without any certainty about their future.
You didn’t hear Morrison or the Murdoch press talking about these people today as they crowed about saving lives at sea.
These mothers, brothers, children, babies, teachers, students, mechanics, small business owners are the collateral damage in Mr Morrison’s harsh regime.
The ‘consequences’ – as he himself described it at the Australian Human Rights Commission Inquiry into Children in Detention.
And what about the people pushed back in orange life boats to Indonesia? What happened to them? Did they even make it back? Where are they now?
If not drowned at sea, presumably they are stuck in hellish detention facilities or living rough on Indonesian streets.
If so, they would be joining many thousands of other desperate asylum seekers, who have found their way to our region in an effort to escape conflict and harm at home.
What the Government is celebrating today is our decision to slam the door in their face, kick them back down the street – or lock them away.
We are talking about people who were woken in the night by a bomb ripping through their house and killing half their family or whose loved one suddenly ‘disappeared’ because they spoke out against the Government or whose sexual orientation made them a target for violence.
Despite the horror and grief they have endured, these people have undertaken an incredibly braveand dangerous journey to make it to our doorstep in search of peace and protection.
We know from past experience that more than 90 per cent of them will have genuine claims for permanent protection.
We should be celebrating their courage and resilience in the face of such horror, not kicking them to the curb.
As a long-term strategy, Morrison’s ‘turn back the boats’ policy is a moral, economic and policy failure.
There are more people displaced by conflict in the world now than ever before.
If we wish to be taken seriously on the world stage, we need to show that we are prepared to do our bit to help people seeking refuge.
The Government must pull its head out of the polls and look to develop a sustainable, humane regional framework for processing and settling refugees along with our neighbours, including Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand.
We should be investing some of the billions of dollars we currently spend on border protection and detention into an efficient UNHCR-led refugee determination process in Indonesia.
We can and we should increase our refugee intake.
These are the sorts of common sense measures that will take away the need for people to risk their lives on boats at sea.
Turning back boats isn’t an answer – it’s an expedient, expensive political stop gap.
What happens when the boats continue to come next year and the year after? Will we continue to use our Navy as a nautical shield, bouncing people back to sea in poorly equipped orange life boats?
What has this cost taxpayers so far and how much more will it cost us?
We can find a better way to respond to the needs of refugees in our region.
It just requires some political leadership and for Australians to stand up and demand a more humane approach to refugees.
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