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Issue #1702      September 16, 2015

Asylum is a human right

As the Abbott government committed Australia to an extension of the US’s endless war – the root cause of the more than 60 million displaced people world wide – the government announced that it will allow just 12,000 people to settle here. Even that tiny number is to be based not on need, but on certain criteria, including priority to Christians.

Photo: Tom Pearson

As the Refugee Action Coalition’s Ian Rintoul points out (“Manus asylum seekers’ appeal”), “It is shocking that the Prime minister could play to anti-Muslim sentiments by suggesting that Christians would be the first selected from Syria. It is not just racist, and an explicit break from the pretence of non-discriminatory humanitarian policy, it is hypocritical. There are plenty of Christians in Australian detention centres also being persecuted by this government.”

Further, the RAC (“Free the Syrians in detention”) says this is compounded by the failure of the government to say over what period of time the 12,000 will be brought to Australia, making it impossible to know how generous the government is being. What we do know is that 12,000 is on the low side; Germany is taking more than this number each day.

Rob Gowland notes: “The vast number of refugees created by imperialism’s present multiplicity of wars are a powerful indictment of the capitalist system.” The problem is being promoted, says Gowland, that it is not the proliferation of predatory wars, but according to leading capitalist politicians such as Tony Abbott it is “people smugglers”. (“Genesis of the refugee crisis”),

This provides the likes of Abbott “with a convenient bogey” that can be used to try and frighten the public.

In “Report on Nauru abuse”, ChilOut (Children out of detention) reports on a Senate Inquiry into Nauru and its shocking findings about the abuse of the children of asylum seekers on Nauru. A total of 67 cases of physical and sexual abuse against children have been revealed by the inquiry.

In a statement, ChilOut campaign coordinator Claire Hammerton said: “ChilOut believes that there are many more cases of child abuse than what was revealed in the Senate Inquiry.” ChilOut has called for all children to be removed from the Nauru detention centre and brought back to Australia as a matter of urgency. There are currently 118 children in immigration detention in the Australian mainland and 87 children in immigration detention on Nauru.

Their statement includes their objective: “ChilOut will continue advocating for the release of children from detention in Australia and Nauru until every last child is free.”

In “Seven key proposals” Nick Micinski from the New Internationalist gives a practical guide to action, pointing out firstly that the scale of the problem demands structural responses from governments and emphasising that asylum is a human right, not an act of charity.

“EU governments should take steps to ensure this right is not eroded in the face of austerity, nationalism and xenophobia.”

Among his proposals: Immediate humanitarian aid to refugees travelling within the EU or near its borders; Full funding for the UNHCR; Prima facie refugee status for all Syrian applicants in the EU; Increased resettlement to the US and Canada; EU to appoint a Special Representative for Human Rights in Migration.

As Rob Gowland’s article concludes: “The refugee crisis is the most dramatic expression of the crisis of a social system that is no longer compatible with the most basic needs of the vast majority of humanity.”

Tom Pearson

Next article – Editorial – Canning still the canary in the coal mine

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