Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Australia, USA organise "refugee swap"

Okay, this agreement between Australia and the US makes absolutely no sense. Does John Howard seriously expect us to believe that offering boat people the possibility of ending up in America rather than Australia will have a negative impact on people-smuggling?

The conspiracy theorist side of me wants to say "no, it'll encourage it, and that's the whole point". The Coalition's had a lamentable lack of potential terrorists asylum seekers trying to enter Australia of late which they can struggle against with great fanfare. Nothing like trying to encourage a few to try it in an election year in order to recreate Tampa 2001.

Less conspiracy theoryish, but still in that kind of paranoid territory, is the thought that this is more about what the US government wants than what the Australian government wants, which would explain why Howard is doing something that doesn't look like it'd be very popular in Australia even among the "go back where you came from!" mob. Some kind of quid pro quo for David Hicks perhaps? This hasn't been reported in American media at the time of writing - no idea how US citizens will view it.

More prosaic - and therefore probably accurate - is the possibility floated by Asylum Seeker Resource Centre spokeswoman Pamela Curr in the article linked above:
Ms Curr said political pressure from Nauru had prompted the island nation to set boundaries on the processing of boat people bound for Australia.

"I think (Australia) is worried that Nauru's going to cut up rough and put pressure on the government to get these young men and boys off Nauru," she said.

Doubts in the US over the future of Guantanamo Bay may also have come into calculation, she said.
Besides the problems with their respective offshore refugee processing regimes, it strikes me as an awfully convenient way of basically ensuring that a potential refugee from Australia (or the US) can get further delayed from receiving refugee status by requiring them to restart the entire process of seeking asylum anew in the US (or Australia).

I can only guess at any of this, but even these kinds of possibilities seem less absurd than the reason the Australian government is trying to get Australian citizens to swallow.

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