In his interview on ABC radio’s Counterpoint on February 28, former immigration minister Philip Ruddock unintentionally revealed the racist platform on which the coalition’s asylum seeker policies, like the government’s, uneasily sit.
When asked why asylum seekers who arrive by plane are not held in detention, he explained that they usually have a place to stay, and so there’s no need to go to the expense of detaining them while their claims are being processed.
The Counterpoint interviewer didn’t point out that there are boat arrivals who have family already in the community, and could very easily stay with them while their refugee claims are being processed. Just like the plane people.
Instead, they are held in indefinite mandatory detention. There is no mandatory detention for the airborne.
What is the difference between the waterborne asylum seekers and airborne? Most of the waterborne come from the Middle East.
The Coalition’s refugee policies are allegedly built on giving preference to deserving as opposed to undeserving asylum seekers, that is, they allegedly favour accepting those who are in most need.
This doesn’t include boat people because they have enough money to pay their way, and they take refugees places from those without the means to do that.
Ruddock doesn’t have the same attitude to asylum seekers who arrive by plane. Unlike boat arrivals they have visas, he says, and have been “vetted.”
However, they still take places from those refugees without the means to get visas, and without the means to pay airfares.
The Counterpoint interviewer neglected to point that out, as well.
There is no apparent reason to treat waterborne and airborne asylum seekers differently. As the former are without visas, it is sensible to detain them for an appropriate period while they undergo health and identity checks. They can then be released into the community, as are the plane arrivals.
The punitive criminalizing of boat arrivals makes no sense in any terms other than racist. It’s very likely that they have fled more difficult circumstances than those who arrived by plane, from countries where it is still possible to obtain visas and engage in regular travel.
Indeed, plane arrivals are more likely to be making immigration choices, as opposed to seeking asylum.
Circumstances in Iraq, for example, are horrific. SBS Dateline, Sunday February 27 ran a piece called Nation of Tears that eloquently portrayed the life Iraqis have to live.
As a member of the Coalition of the Willing who illegally invaded that country, we bear our share of responsibility for the on going chaos and death. Yet we imprison those who flee that nightmare, while allowing those who arrive from functioning countries,with visas, to live free while their refugee claims are assessed.
This hardly sounds like a policy of attending to the most in need.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult for the coalition and the government to deny their inherent racism. No matter how hard they try it keeps on erupting, as it will when it’s so deeply ingrained.
If Chris Bowen and Scott Morrison have an explanation as to why there is such on going discrimination between asylum seekers arriving by boat and plane, why don’t they reveal it, and put paid to the inevitable allegations of racism against themselves and their parties?