Macken, Julie: Long journey to Nauru

Macken, Julie

The long journey to Nauru‘, New Matilda, 12 January 2016

Long article by former MSM (Financial Review) journalist on the history of Australian policy towards asylum seekers over the last 30 years or so.

30 years ago, it would have been unthinkable to Australians that they would lock up men, women and children without charge, in conditions likened to a concentration camp. And yet, here we are. In this special feature, Julie Macken charts the course that made Australia an international pariah for its treatment of the world’s most vulnerable people – those seeking asylum …

Over the past 10 years, Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers and refugees has become even worse. With no hope of policy change in sight, and with the situation unraveling out of control on both Nauru and Manus Island, it is time to ask ourselves how we got here and how we begin the long journey out of this political, ethical, legal and humanitarian quagmire.

Starts with a reconstruction of the fate of a Hazara man, found not to be a refugee, deported at the order of then Immigration Minister Ruddock, and killed. Goes on to look at Cabinet documents recently released from the Labor Government of the early 1990s; mandatory detention was introduced in 1992. Looks again at Tampa and at evidence of conditions today on Nauru and Manus Island, where the costs to Australia of keeping asylum seekers are much more than what it would cost to keep them in the Australian community.

Asylum seekers and refugees living in Australia’s camps on Nauru and Manus Island are experiencing shocking treatment – even by Australia’s appalling standards. Nauru has essentially become a black site where accountability has completely broken down.

Macken believes there is hope of change but suggests there are three things required: provide amnesty for all those currently on Nauru and Manus; redirect the money currently going to private security firms on Nauru and Manus to instead fund UNHCR in Indonesia and Malaysia; increase the refugee intake from Indonesia and Malaysia. But the precondition to these specifics is creating

a counter narrative to the current story of fear, distrust and inhumanity. By changing the frame to one of shared humanity, success and courage, it becomes harder for politicians from both major parties to get political mileage out of brutalizing [asylum seekers].

There is a good collection of comments including by the author.

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