You take 800, we take 4000: Gillard’s asylum-seeker exchange ‘deal’


Australia will trade asylum seekers with Malaysia in a new plan expected to be finalised in coming weeks. It is Gillard’s silver bullet for addressing the overcrowding detention centres, addressing the survivors of the asylum seeker boat crash on Christmas Island last year, and enabling her to swiftly tick off those election policy promises for the term.

Under the agreement, Australia will send asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boat back to Malaysia and “the back of queue”.

In exchange, Australia has agreed to accept five times as many refugees for every one we swap, resettling up to 4000 asylum seekers from Malaysia.

Source: Courier Mail | Gillard Gambles on Refugee swap deal

Wait, what?

How is that a deal?

Vowing to break the people smugglers‘ trade with the hardline policy, she vowed to return 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia under the plan. Ms Gillard also confirmed Australia was in talks to establish an offshore processing centre for asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea.

I fail to see how sending “up to” 800 people back to Malaysia will even dent the power of people smugglers or boatloads of asylum seekers from coming. If anything, it will renew the drive of people smugglers to swamp us with refugees beyond the cap of 800. At least, this is what they will say to would-be refugees, if they ever even realise the deal took place.

But there is an infinitely more massive problem, here, besides boat people. The number of holes in this deal render it as washed up as the very boats it claims to prevent.

For starters, there is no hardline policy for refugees / asylum seekers arriving by plane. Those who arrive by plane far outstrip the small percentage who arrive by boat:

EVERY day, at least 13 asylum-seekers enter Australia through airports, representing 30 times the number of boat people that are supposedly “flooding” across our maritime borders. 

A total of 4768 “plane people” – more than 96 per cent of applicants for refugee status – arrived by aircraft in 2008 on legitimate tourist, business and other visas compared with 161 who arrived by boat during the same period, the Sunday Telegraph reports.

And plane people are much less likely than boat people to be genuine refugees, with only about 40-60 per cent granted protection visas, compared with 85-90 per cent of boat people who are found to be genuine refugees.

Source: – Asylum-seekers arrive by plane, not boat

Secondly, this precedent with Malaysia is obviously hugely benefitting Malaysia. What country wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to offload 4000 over-capacity refugees from their own processing centres? It means 4000 less people to worry about integrating into their own country / deporting, and instead letting the over-crowded Australian system handle it.

The deal is benefitting Malaysia so much in fact, that it has turned the heads of other South East Asian nations. Now Thailand has approached the Australian government, asking for a similar deal to be drafted up for them.

“I think the agreement between Australia and Malaysia on this particular model based on, I think, five to one ratio is something that the rest of us will be interested to look at,” Thailand’s foreign minister Kasit Piromya said after bilateral talks with Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd in Bangkok.

He said many countries had been looking for a way to deal with an influx of asylum-seekers.

“I think the Australian-Malaysian likely agreement would provide some sort of certainty and also a model for others to study,” he said.

Source: The Australian | Thailand ‘interested’ in refugee swap deal with Australia

Good luck Rudd, in trying to explain why Malaysia gets special treatment while denying this bargain to other countries.

The fine print is, this will occur over the next 4 years, beginning this year. If similar deals are modelled on this, we could very well see in excess of 10,000 asylum seekers taken in exchange for allegedly slowing the number arriving on boats. You could gamble with better odds playing roulette, yet this is real people, and real nations we’re talking about. Meanwhile, our airport borders are not even being factored in. Why? Purely because it does not get the media coverage. If Australians are not aware of the illegal immigration problem through airports, then to Gillard (and every government before it) it is not worthy of being an election issue.

So how is Gillard expecting to handle the extra asylum seeker processing strain? Well, she’s not. That’s not her Papua New Guinea problem as long as the deal provides the media with some footage showing Australia is “sending the boat people back“, thereby buying up the narrow-minded national pride and votes from the majority of uneducated hicks across this country for the next election.

The plus side is that this country needs more people. Let’s face it, it’s never been about stopping refugees, only the ones who choose not to apply and arrive by illegal means. Our rate of population growth is currently so slow in comparison to other nations that we are at risk of economically falling behind in one generation’s time. That is why we have the baby bonus.

The reality is, we need genuine, screened refugees in order to pull this country’s skill shortages to a level where our nation can compete with the growth of overseas industries.

What really offends me as an educated Australian here, is the way the Gillard government has gone about it this plan. Does this deal actually fix what it claims to fix? No. Are we really going to trust the screening decisions of Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia? Of course we’re not. They don’t care who Australia takes. But do we have the capacity to hold thousands more for processing? Consider this:

In March of 2011, the 2400 Christmas Island detainees burned down their accommodation in protest, and were consequentially put up in 5-star accommodation (on taxpayer’s money), free to roam the community while the buildings were rebuilt. Also in March 2011, nine (just nine!) Burmese detainees of Darwin’s detention centre managed to stage a rooftop protest that garnered international media attention. This followed a protest by 300 detainees again on Christmas Island where tear gas needed to be used.

Do Australia’s processing centres really have the capacity to handle 4000 more? Or will the only viable (unspoken) solution be to integrate them into our cities, free to roam the community just like those who arrive via plane, while processing occurs?

Food for thought.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Categories: Multiculturalism, People, Politics, Law

Author:Andrew Beato

CEO, Chief Editor and founder of Intentious. Passionate comment enthusiast, amateur philosopher, Quora contributor, audiobook and general knowledge addict.

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