Rudd government treats refugees as political footballs

Welcome to Australia, a Federal government that wants to be “tough” on asylum seekers, clearly makes policy on the run and is increasingly reminiscent of the previous Howard regime. Brutes.

The only major party in Australia that makes humane sense is the Greens and people remember (look at the UK, where Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg is the most popular leader since Winston Churchill, not least because he appears to be a man of principle, though time will tell, of course):

The Greens have accused the federal government of a discredited Howard-like approach to asylum seekers by deciding to reopen a West Australian detention facility.

On Sunday, Immigration Minister Chris Evans announced the government would reopen the centre at Curtin Air Base in a bid to ease overcrowding and potential conflicts at Christmas Island.

The decision came just a week after a freeze was put on Afghan and Sri Lankan refugee applications as a deterrent to new arrivals.

Senator Evans said Curtin would be readied immediately to hold 200-300 Sri Lankan and Afghan asylum seekers whose refugee applications had been suspended.

“Previously it’s been used for this purpose and initially we’ll be upgrading the facility to accommodate that cohort of persons who have had their asylum claims suspended,” Senator Evans told reporters in Perth.

“We need to find an appropriate secure facility to deal with these asylum seekers.”

Greens immigration and human rights spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young slammed the move, saying it was another example of “policy-on-the-run” from the government.

“The immigration policy, the refugee response from the government, is a dog’s breakfast – it’s one announcement after another without the real follow-through of any type of practical long-term or humane approach, from the Australian government,” she told reporters in Adelaide.

Senator Hanson-Young said Curtin – 40km southeast of Derby in Western Australia’s far north – had in the past been described as “a living hell hole”.

She said Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was trying to win votes, but warned “the Australian public are smarter than that”.

“Everything he’s announced over the last couple of weeks harks straight back to the days which were discredited under the Howard government, where we detained vulnerable people in the middle of the desert, where we detained children behind barbed wire,” she said.

“This is a government who said they would work to dismantle that regime and now we see them implementing it themselves.”

Senator Evans said the first group of single-male asylum seekers – who are subject to a three-month freeze for Sri Lankans and a six-month freeze for Afghans – would be moved from Christmas Island to Curtin as soon as upgrades were finished.

In addition, 60 single-male detainees would immediately be moved to the Darwin detention centre, and a group of about 70 unaccompanied minors moved to Port Augusta, in South Australia.

While that move was planned for Sunday, it was delayed until at least Monday, after a charter plane suffered mechanical difficulties.

Senator Evans said “a couple of hundred or so” people would be moved off Christmas Island “in the next week or two” to ease overcrowding.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said the new policy was “another example of failure by the federal government”.

“We’ve seen now people being transferred to Darwin, which the government said it would do once Christmas Island was overflowing, and we now see a complete end to offshore processing in this country,” he said.

Mr Morrison said the costs of dealing with asylum seekers in Australia were spiralling out of control.

“How much is it costing them in midnight flights, these charter flights, all around the country as Christmas Island spills over?,” he said.

“How much is it costing to put in place all these new centres and facilities being reopened at Curtin?

“The cost is mounting and the government’s failure continues to increase.”

Senator Evans said he did not know the final cost of expanding Curtin, but the government would “invest considerably” in the centre.

Refugee Council of Australia CEO Paul Power said the use of the Curtin facility to house asylum seekers was completely inappropriate.

“It is one of the most remote places in Australia and facilities would have to be built,” Mr Power said.

“This population of asylum seekers will include torture and trauma survivors, and services for them will be nigh on impossible to deliver.

“It is hard to think of any good policy reason to pick this remote location instead of locations closer to available services.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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