Do States Have the Right to Exclude Immigrants? (published today)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 25/05/2018 - 11:32pm in

I know you’ve all been waiting expectantly …. My book Do States Have the Right to Exclude Immigrants? is published in the UK today by Polity Press (those of you in North America will have to wait until Wiley publish it in July). The book challenges the assumption that lies behind most debates on immigration, namely that states have a discretion to do pretty much as they like and may set their policy according to the interests of their own citizens.

The book has three chapters. In the first, I look at migration today and in history, say something about patterns of migration, why people move and how recent many of the restrictions on movement that we take for granted are. In the second chapter I look at the question of state exclusion from an ideal perspective and ask whether the currently accepted norm of unilateral state discretion over immigration is defensible. You’ll be unsurprised to learn that I think it isn’t. Rather a global migration regime has to be justifiable (in some sense) to everyone subject to it. This doesn’t mean that states never get the right to exclude, but it means that the reasons they use have to be justifiable from an impartial perspective. I also reply to some arguments defending the right of states to exclude. In the final chapter I address the worry that this ideal theorizing is all very well, but we don’t live in an ideal world. I defend the idea that states can have some provisional rights to exclude in a world where other states are not acting justly but that to exercise them they must actively work towards the creation of a fair global migration order and must not undermine existing elements like the 1951 Refugee Convention. Where states fail to work towards justice they lose their authority over would-be migrants who have, in turn, no obligation to obey their immigration laws. That’s a very brief summary of 135 pages. It is a short book, and it argues for a particular perspective. It can’t and doesn’t cover all the bases in the space available, but I hope it is engaging and readable for those without a prior background in the subject matter.

US deal farce as refugees blocked from resettlement

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 18/05/2018 - 1:55pm in


refugees, refugees

Large-scale rejections on Nauru have revealed the US resettlement deal to be a complete farce.

When US assessors returned to Nauru in May all Iranian, Somali, Sudanese and Iraqi refugees, with the exception of one Iranian single woman, were rejected for US resettlement. These nationalities make up around half of all the refugees on Manus and Nauru. This time around 80 of the 150 Nauru refugees given answers were rejected.

Hundreds of refugees from the same countries on Manus Island now know that they will be rejected by the US too.

Despite the assurances given to Iranians and others that there was no ban on refugees from certain countries, the nationalities of the rejected refugees coincide with the countries named by Trump’s travel ban.

It is now clear that hundreds of people found to be refugees by Australia’s own determination process will be denied resettlement places in the US.

The US deal was never acceptable. It was always a way Australia denied providing protection to those who needed it. And, even if the US deal had been met in full, there were not enough places to resettle the hundreds of asylum seekers who have not yet been given a refugee determination, were found not to be refugees, or who refused to cooperate with the process after being forced to Manus five years ago.

After lying for years that the Coalition government was negotiating with “third countries” to resettle the refugees, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton admitted that actually there were no other third countries willing to do so.

Yet the government continues to reject the New Zealand government’s offer to take 150 refugees a year from Manus and Nauru.

The US deal was always a fraud. It was first announced in November 2016. But it was almost a year later before the first small group of refugees went to the US from Manus and Nauru in September 2017. More than 18 months after it was announced only 85 refugees have gone to the US from Manus and 162 from Nauru.

Successive governments have brutalised around 2000 people on Manus and Nauru in the attempt to deny them protection in Australia. After almost five years they still have nowhere to resettle them.

The situation on Manus and Nauru is set to get worse. In the aftermath of the rejections, two despairing Iranian refugees on Nauru attempted suicide.

Election looms

With polls showing that the Coalition faces defeat in the next election, there will be constant attempts by Dutton to play the refugee card over the coming months. When a Sri Lankan boat carrying 130 asylum seekers was intercepted in Malaysia in early May, the media lit up with Dutton warning about people-smuggling, and the “danger” of Labor softening its refugee policies at its conference in July.

While Shorten has said that a Labor government will accept New Zealand’s offer to take 150 refugees, Labor remains completely committed to offshore detention. Shorten has only criticised Turnbull and Dutton for the length of time that refugees have been kept on Nauru and Manus.

He says that Labor is committed to getting all refugees and asylum seekers off the islands, but simply maintains that Labor will find “third countries” to accept them. But Labor won’t find third countries for the same reasons that Dutton can’t find any.

Resettling countries are not going to accept Australia undermining the Refugee Convention and international resettlement agreements with the UNHCR by taking refugees that Australia has turned away in violation of them.

Shorten says that Labor does not accept “indefinite detention”, but also that it would not put a time limit on offshore detention. Every time he says that Labor will get everyone off Nauru and Manus, he raises expectations. But getting everyone off Nauru and Manus is a demand that we will have to fight a Labor government to fulfil.

Labor for Refugees and the Labor Left will move resolutions at Labor’s conference to close Manus and Nauru. But there should be no illusions. Shorten will almost certainly have the numbers to keep boat turnbacks and offshore processing in Labor policy.

That’s why “Bring Them Here,” will remain at the forefront of the refugee movement’s demands. The fight won’t end with the election of a Labor government.

By Ian Rintoul

The post US deal farce as refugees blocked from resettlement appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Review: Joe Sacco’s ‘Palestine’

(London: Jonathan Cape 2001)

This is one of the classics of the graphic novel. Joe Sacco is an American journalist. He spent two months with the Palestinians in late 1991 and early 1992 in Gaza and the West Bank during the time of the first Intifada. He wrote and drew Palestine after his return to the US, basing it on his notes, publishing it as a nine-part comic strip. These were later collected into a single volume to form the graphic novel. The book also has a kind of introduction, ‘Homage to Joe Sacco’, from Edward Said, the author of Orientalism, critic of western imperialism and attitudes to the Arabs, and himself a Palestinian.

This is precisely the type of book the Israel lobby does not want people to read. Not BICOM, not the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, which was set up because Gideon Falter, its founder, was worried about British attitudes becoming more hostile to Israel after the blockade of Gaza, not the Jewish Labour Movement, formerly Paole Zion and the companion party to the Israeli Labor Party, not the various ‘Friends of Israel’ societies in the political parties, Tories and Labour, nor the Jewish Leadership Council and definitely not the Board of Deputies of British Jews. All of them shout ‘anti-Semitism’ at anyone who dares to publish anything critical of Israel, or show the barbarity with which it treats the Palestinians.

The book shows Sacco’s experiences as he goes around Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, talking to both Palestinians and Israelis, meeting them, entering their homes, and listening to their stories. He starts the book in Cairo, the beginning of his journey to Israel, and to which he returns at his departure. During his time there, he visits the Vale of Kidron, the Arab quarter of Old Jerusalem, Hebron, Ramallah, Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza strip, as it then was, Balata, another refugee camp on the West Bank, Nablus, the town of Gaza itself, and finally Tel Aviv.

It’s not an easy read. This is an occupied country during deep unrest, and the threat of violence and arbitrary arrest and detention without trial is every where. There are patrols of soldiers, demonstrations, explosions and stone throwing. And he shows, with quotes, the contemptuous, lofty and hostile attitude the early Zionists and Lord Balfour had for the indigenous population. He quotes Balfour as saying

‘Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long tradition, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desire and prejudices of 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit this ancient land. We do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the inhabitants’.

Ben Gurion thought it would be simple to expel the Palestinians, because he felt they had no real attachment to their homeland. He wrote that the Palestinian ‘is equally at ease whether in Jordan, Lebanon or a variety of other places’. With the approach of war, he made it clear their expulsion was going to be through military force: ‘In each attack a decisive blow should be struck, resulting in the destruction of homes and the expulsion of the population.’ When that was done, ‘Palestinian Arabs have only one role – to flee’. He also quotes Golda Meir, who stated that a Palestinian people, defining itself as a Palestinian people, did not exist, and ‘we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They do not exist’. 400 Palestinian villages were razed in the war marking the birth of Israel. Meir’s lie – that the Palestinians don’t exist as a people – is still repeated by Republican and pro-Israel bloggers. Golda Meir was also concerned about the Palestinian population outstripping that of the Israelis, another issue that is still very alive today.

His hosts are polite, welcoming him into their homes, and plying him with tea. But occasionally there is an outburst from one of them, when he’s asked what the point of him being there, of them talking to him, is. Because other journalists have been there too, and they’ve talked to them, and nothing has happened, nothing has changed. They also talk to him about the other factions, and of the peace process. In a separate text at the beginning of the book, he states that, while the peace process set up the Palestinian authority and gave them a government, it changed nothing for ordinary Palestinians, and the occupation and theft of land by the Israelis still goes on.

He also reveals that the Israelis appropriate 2/3 of the land in the West Bank for their own us, which includes the establishment of Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law. And the governments gives Israelis plenty of incentives to move to them. They’re given a government grant if they do, lower interest rates on loan, the housing itself is cheaper than in Israel, and an income tax rate of 7 per cent. The settlers themselves can be extremely aggressive. Sacco’s hosts tell them about incidents where settlers have come into Palestinian villages, smashing windows and demanding that the owners come out. Of people shot by them, and the trivial sentences given to the settlers guilty of this. They’re given jail sentences of a few months. If they’re convicted in the first place. Palestinians who shoot and kill Israelis are jailed for years. Some lavish homes do exist in Palestine, occupied by Arabs, but most live in very bare houses, often with leaking roofs, which are vulnerable to storms.

His cartoons show what his Palestinian hosts tell him it’s like in prison camps like Ansar III, with crowds of prisoners crammed into small, bare rooms with no heat and poor ventilation. There are also few eating utensils, to the various political factions in the camp – Fateh, Hamas, Popular Front, organise meal times so that everyone gets a turn with the cup and plate to eat and drink. Several of the people he talks to were arrested simply on suspicion. Israeli law allowed them to be held without charge while evidence was compiled, with his captors returning to court over and over again to request a few more days more, until the judge finally listens to their lawyer, has the procedure stopped and the prisoner released. He also shows how the prisoners were tortured through beatings, being forced to stand for hours with bags over their heads, a process permitted under Israel law. A judge ruled that torture could not be used, but what methods were to replace them were kept secret. So many Palestinians have been incarcerated, that a green identity card showing a man has been in jail is a matter of pride. And not to have been to prison correspondingly is a mark of shame.

He talks about how the Israelis have a deliberate policy of not allowing the Palestinians to industrialise, so that they compete with the Israel. The State has also put obstacles in place to prevent Palestinian farmers competing with Israelis. They also deliberately uproot the olive trees many Palestinians grow to support themselves. The Israelis also appropriate most of the water, and dig deeper wells, so that the Palestinians have a much poorer water supply and their own wells are becoming increasingly saline. As a result, unemployment in Gaza was at 40 per cent. And Sacco himself was approached several times by Palestinians, hoping he could do something so that they could leave and go abroad to study or find work.

He describes a school, without electricity, as well as a school for the deaf, which is supported through volunteers and whose staff complain of their lack of training for dealing with people with disabilities. He also hears and illustrates the story of one Palestinian woman, whose son was shot by Israeli soldiers, but was prevented from taking him directly to hospital. Instead she was ordered to go hither and thither, where she was told a helicopter was waiting to take her and the boy. When she gets there, there is no helicopter. She eventually takes him to the hospital herself in a car, by which time it’s too late and the lad dies.

The book also shows the mass of roadblocks and the permit system which Palestinians have to go through to go to Israel. At the same time, Israelis are simply allowed to whiz through in their separate lanes.

Sacco also doesn’t shy away from showing the negative side of Palestine – the anti-Semitism, and particularly infamous murders, like the killing of Klinghoffer aboard the Achille Lauro, and the massacre of the Israeli Olympic team by the terrorist group Black September. This can turn into support for the murder of Israeli civilians. There’s also a chapter on the plight of Palestinian women, This is a society where women are still very much treated as inferiors and subordinates, where honour killings are carried out as the punishment for female adultery. It is also a society where collaborators are murdered, and those, who belong to the wrong faction may also be shot and killed.

The book was written 27 years ago, but nothing really seems to have changed since then. The illegal settlements are still there and expanding. Settlers are still seizing Palestinian homes and property, the apartheid separating Israelis from Palestinians is still in place, unemployment is still high, and Palestinians are still being treated as foreigners, refugees and second-class citizens on their own land.

However, some attitudes are changing. The Israeli liberals Sacco talks to only support the Palestinians up to a point. When pressed, some of them will say that Israel should keep the Occupied Territories, because they seized them in war. Or that they need to keep them for security reasons. But an increasing number of young Jews in America and elsewhere are appalled at the continuing maltreatment of the Palestinians and are becoming increasingly critical and hostile to Israel because of this. And there have also grown up major opposition groups like the human rights organisation B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence in Israel.

The Israeli state and its lobby and supporters in this country and others are increasingly scared. It’s why they’re trying to pass laws to criminalise the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in America, and to outlaw criticism of Israel in this country through tortuous definitions of anti-Semitism that are stretched to include it. It’s why they’re smearing, with the connivance of the right-wing media, the Blairites in the Labour party, and the Conservatives, decent people, who have fought racism and anti-Semitism, as anti-Semites.

Very long, detailed books have been written about Israel’s brutal treatment, dispossession and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. Sacco’s Palestine presenting this as graphic novel, is an example of how comics can also be serious literature, tackling a difficult subject with both narrative and artistic skill and style. I’ve mentioned on this blog before the alternative comics that were also published from the ’60s to the 1980s/1990s on political topics, including the Israeli maltreatment of Palestinians in Pat Mills’ Crisis. Palestine is very much in that tradition, and in 1996 won the American Book Award.


Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 01/05/2018 - 5:17pm in

In discussion of my recent post about the Windrush scandal, a couple of commenters used the phrase “illegal immigrants”. Tory ministers have since been on the airwaves using it a lot, and telling us that the public expects action on “illegal immigration”. Labour’s Diane Abbot has also been talking about the need to “bear down on illegal immigration” and the journalist Amelia Gentleman, who did so much to break the Windrush story, has protested that scandal of citizens denied their rights is nothing to do with “illegal immigration”.

But here’s why what they all say is wrong. There’s no such legal category as “illegal immigration”, rather there are people who have the legal right to be in the country and, perhaps, to do certain things like work or study. And then there are people who may lack the legal right to be present and to do those things. Some of the people with legal rights to be present have those rights because they are citizens; some other people have those rights for other reasons such as having a valid visa, being a refugee, or having some other human rights-based legal basis to stay.

Obviously, to “bear down” on people without the legal right to stay a government needs to (a) determine who they are and (b) take some action against them. Equally obviously, a government official may make a mistake about whether a person has the right to stay or they may use impermissible means against them. So you need a system by which people who have the right to stay but who the government wants gone can contest the bureaucratic decision against them as mistaken.

Bureaucrats have to give people the chance to correct mistaken information about them. People need to have effective means to do this. Once information is provided, if the decision remains unchanged, people have to have the capacity to challenge it before an impartial tribunal. Given a “culture of disbelief” at the UK Home Office, fees for visa and citizenship applications set at absurdly high levels, the exclusion of immigration control from data privacy protections, the suppression of legal aid in immigration cases and the difficulty of getting affordable legal advice, it is clear that many people categorized by officials as lacking the right to stay will lack the capacity to challenge and overturn that determination.

What we have, in essence, is the old problem of false positives and false negatives. If you build a system to have zero tolerance of “illegal immigrants” you will inevitably get a lot of false positives when you test for “illegality” and you will deny and violate the rights of many people. If you build a system for accuracy, or, better, with the value that it is better to let a few people past than to deny people rights to which they are entitled, then you will get far fewer such cases. The UK government has deliberately built a zero tolerance system with the inevitable consequence of inflicting injustice on people by denying their rights. Unless that system is changed, the problem will continue: the fevered tabloid-driven hunt for “illegal immigrants” will catch many people who are not, even by the standards of those politicians using this language.

(Notice that nothing in what I have written so far even touches on people’s moral rights to reside, work or acquire citizenship. Personally, I believe such rights to be very extensive and to go beyond what the law currently recognizes. But that’s not the point of this post. Nor have I referred above to other problems such as the effect of the obsession with “illegal immigration” on the equal status of people who look or sound a certain way.)

White South African Farmers—Racists on the march

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 23/04/2018 - 11:00am in

If you want an example of how the respectable racism at the top of society shapes racism more broadly and encourages the far right, look no further than the campaign for white South African farmers being waged by the likes of Peter Dutton, Alan Tudge and WA Liberal MP Andrew Hastie.

Peter Dutton’s declaration that white South African farmers should get “special attention” and be fast tracked for refugee or humanitarian visas sparked right-wing rallies in Brisbane and Perth. The next rally for the white farmers is planned for Adelaide.

In Brisbane, in late March, the pro-white farmer rally was fronted by Liberal backbencher Andrew Laming and former One Nation, now independent, Senator Fraser Anning.

Around 2000 rallied for the white farmers in Perth on 8 April. Two days later, Hastie and Tudge both spoke at a forum supporting them. On Friday, around 50 people supported the attempt of the far right Australian Liberty Alliance to lodge a petition supporting the white farmers at Julie Bishop’s Perth office.

Dutton’s comments oozed racism, as he declared support for the white farmers who will “abide by our laws, integrate into our society, work hard,” while ignoring the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya farmers being ethnically cleansed from Myanmar.

Dutton’s comment that white farmers needed help from a “civilised country like ours” was atrocious. There is nothing “civilised” about a country in which the first people are imprisoned at a greater rate than South Africa under apartheid; to say nothing of the government’s treatment of refugees.

Not persecuted

Dutton has already been slapped down by his own department in 2015, when it rejected the refugee claim of one white farmer and another white South African, finding that, “there was little evidence of racially motivated crime against white farmers or white South Africans.”

South Africa’s own statistics show, “that you are far more likely to be murdered as a young black South African living in a high-risk area.” White South African males are less likely to fall victim to murder than black South African males.

The situation of white farmers in South Africa is a legacy of apartheid. The 1913 Natives’ Land Act gave ownership of 87 per cent of land to Europeans, confining the black majority to just 13 per cent of the entire country.

Today, white farmers control 73 per cent of arable land although only 8 per cent of the population is white, and even fewer are farmers.

Dutton’s campaign is out-and-out racism to both pander to specific constituencies in Liberal electorates and to also whip up the general level of racism in the run up to the federal election.

“PFP” (Packing for Perth) has become a commonplace among white South Africans. The number of white South Africans living in Australia has jumped by 75 per cent to 181,000 between 2006 and 2016.

After making timid noises about maintaining Australia’s non-discriminatory humanitarian intake, Turnbull and Bishop have let the racists run unimpeded.

Citizenship Minister Alan Tudge was still telling Sky News that the Coalition “may well be able to take some in.” And despite the facts, Hastie was still doing interviews about “persecuted” white farmers.

Not surprisingly, The Australian, the newspaper that campaigned to drive Aboriginal people from remote communities, is devoting page after page to boosting the white South African farmers—and the right wing of the Liberal Party.

There is another sickeningly hypocritical element to Dutton’s campaign. Under present laws, white South Africans could not be accepted as refugees.

There would have to be special laws for them—an ironic echo of the “Whites Only” signs of apartheid.

Even if there was evidence of persecution on racial grounds, Australian law says that if a white farmer can reasonably relocate to another part of the country, then the case should be refused.

Many Afghan Hazaras are currently being rejected precisely because the immigration department says it is possible for them relocate to other parts of Afghanistan. Even if they are found to be a refugee because of the dangers in one part of Afghanistan, Hazaras are being told they can live in Kabul.

There is a mutual appeal between the white farmers and the racist elite in Australia. The origins of both Australia and South Africa as white colonial settler states embedded a deep racism in the structure of both states.

The furore about the white farmers has lifted the lid on a particularly ugly current of White Australian racism that Dutton hankers for.

It is a stark reminder that there is a system that fuels the racism that the Liberals spew out over Indigenous people, refugees, migrants and Muslims. We need to fight the racism, and their system.

By Ian Rintoul

The post White South African Farmers—Racists on the march appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Viktor Orban Goes Conspiracy-Theorist Fascist about George Soros

Earlier this week, Mike put up a piece showing the Tories’ hypocrisy over the anti-Semitism smears. While happy to smear Corbyn’s Labour as full of Jew haters and Nazis and demanding the strongest possible action, the Tories are not so eager to do anything about the greater number of anti-Semites and racists in their own. And indeed, the party very frequently indulges in coded and overt racism, and has no problems congratulating some very nasty foreign heads of state, who are vehemently anti-Semitic.

Like Viktor Orban, the president of Hungary and head of the ruling Fidesz party. This is a far-right, Christian party with a very nasty line in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. A little while ago he spouting about how the invading Muslims hordes, or for the rest of us, brutalised refugees fleeing Syria would never be allowed into Hungary. He’s especially fixated with George Soros. Soros is, of course, an international financier, and the sponsor of several pro-democracy organisations and courses in Hungarian universities. He’s also of Hungarian Jewish descent, and because Soros is very definitely anti-Fascist, Orban naturally hates him with a passion. Mike’s article pointed out how Orban’s speech was very similar, and used all the tropes the Nazis and other Fascist groups since then have used about ‘Jewish bankers’.

This did not stop the Tories trying to cosy up to him. Boris Johnson sent him a message congratulating him on his election victory. Which shows you just how seriously the Tories really take anti-Semitism and real racism when it suits them. But I’m not surprised. The people making these accusations against Labour are massively hypocritical. The current Polish president is also the head of another anti-Semitic party. But this didn’t stop Stephen Pollard, of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, writing an article in the Groaniad claiming that he wasn’t, because he was ‘a good friend of Israel’. The Polish supremo had just signed a deal to buy a whole load of Israeli military jets. I’ve got a feeling that Orban’s Hungary has just done the same, or something similar. For the Israel Lobby, and its very Tory, establishment members, it’s only anti-Semitic if it criticises Israel. Otherwise, their perfectly happy with viciously anti-Semitic regimes.

Soros himself has a very good reason to despise Israel. He loathes Zionism because of the way Kasztner, the head of the Zionists in Hungary, allowed the Nazis to deport tens of thousands of Jews to the gas chambers, just so a few could be sent to Israel. But obviously, this isn’t an episode of Zionist history Pollard, Arkush, Goldstein and the rest of the Israel lobby want you to know about, or else they’ll throw another wobbly and accuse whoever tells them of being ‘anti-Semitic’.

But I digress. Now it seems, Orban has gone full Alex Jones, conspiracy-theory nutjob. One of the Hungarian magazines has apparently published an article, according to the I, in which he names 200 groups and individuals he brands as ‘mercenaries’ in the pay of George Soros. These include respected human rights organisations. We’re back to the Nazis and their claim that democracy is a ‘Jewish plot to enslave the Aryan man’. Okay, so in this case, it’s Hungarians, not Germans, but the reasoning is exactly the same.

Orban is repeating the lies and murderous conspiracy theories of the Nazis with his venomous fixation on Soros. Reading such stuff, you can almost go through it ticking off the similarities. It’s vile, terrifying stuff. But the Tory party and the Israel lobby will love him, defend and congratulate him, because, like the Polish premier, ‘he’s a good friend to Israel’. He might be, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a Jew hater. He’s a vile anti-Semite, and this shows their utter hypocrisy. And its high time the Tories and the Israel lobby were held to account for their own amoral attitudes supporting him and other Fascists.

Resettlement farce on Manus: set the deadline, bring them here

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 23/03/2018 - 3:36pm in



The PNG Immigration Minister’s declaration that the Australian government must get the asylum seekers and refugees out of PNG has made the “Bring Them Here” demand of the refugee movement even more important.

Almost exactly two years ago the PNG Supreme Court ordered the PNG and Australian governments, “to cease the unconstitutional and illegal detention of asylum seekers” on Manus Island and to stop the breach of their human rights.

Yet more than 600 people are still held on Manus Island, and almost 100 more in Port Moresby.

The farce of PNG resettlement came to a dramatic end on 20 February, when PNG police raided the houses of 13 refugees who were supposedly being resettled in Port Moresby. They were arrested and forcibly returned to Manus Island. The PNG Immigration Minister, Petrus Thomas, was stating the obvious when he told the ABC that PNG refugee resettlement had failed.

Now the PNG Minister has declared it Australia’s responsibility to find a third country to resettle the refugees. PNG has even set up a task force to negotiate with Australia’s Home Affairs Department to ensure all refugees from Manus Island are resettled in a third country.

Ongoing crisis

The task force is one more sign that nothing is resolved on Manus Island, and that it remains a problem for the government. While it is not the first time that the PNG Immigration Minister has said PNG expects Australia to get the refugees off Manus, the announcement will keep the pressure on the Australian government.

For years, Peter Dutton has lied that the Coalition was seeking safe, third countries. He told the media in 2016, “We are keen to get people off to third countries…We are working with a number of countries now.”

But Foreign Affairs Minister, Julie Bishop, says that Cambodia is only country other than the US that will take refugees. That’s also a lie.

When New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was in Australia in March, she repeated her government’s offer to take 150 refugees a year; but no mention of that from Julie Bishop.

The stakes are high. At a recent Senate Estimates hearing, Border Force admitted that up to 500 asylum seekers and refugees could be left on Manus regardless of the US deal. More will be left on Nauru. Refugees have been held on Manus and Nauru for almost five years, yet the government’s only response is to maintain the hell-holes. And Labor is as much to blame. Its bi-partisan support for offshore detention has allowed the brutality and the scapegoating to continue.

Thousands of people around Australia will protest and march on Palm Sunday, 25 March, to tell the government to free the refugees, evacuate Manus and Nauru and bring all the asylum seekers and refugees to Australia.

Biloela says bring the Tamil family home

At the time of writing, almost 100,000 people have signed a petition calling on the government to return a Tamil asylum seeker family that Border Force officers snatched from a rural town in Queensland. Nades and Priya have lived and worked in Biloela for four years. Their two children were born in Australia.

Despite a pending court hearing, Border Force tried to forcibly remove the family from Australia, bundling them onto a plane to Sri Lanka only a day after the court documents were lodged.

The family was taken off the plane in Perth at midnight after lawyers were alerted to the removal and initiated an urgent court hearing.
Biloela is shocked at the government’s actions. One Biloela resident put it simply, “[This family] is a part of our community. Our neighbours have been taken and we want them back.”

By Ian Rintoul

Sign the petition at

The post Resettlement farce on Manus: set the deadline, bring them here appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Fraser wanted to stop the boats

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 23/03/2018 - 1:48pm in



A new book on the origins of Australia’s refugee policies idealises the approach of the Fraser government. But it has plenty of evidence on why it’s no model argues Ian Rintoul

Malcolm Fraser was the Liberal politician who became Prime Minister when Gough Whitlam was sacked by Governor-General Sir John Kerr in 1975.

In more recent years, Fraser became known as an outspoken critic of the harsh policies of successive Liberal and Labor governments towards refugees. He resigned from the Liberals in 2010, because he thought the party had moved “too far to the right”.

He even became a patron of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in Melbourne. His visage is now immortalised as a huge mural on the side of the ASRC building in Footscray.

Compared to the years of mandatory detention since its introduction under Labor in 1992, and the vicious detention regime established in the Howard years, the Fraser government’s record on paper looks creditable. Even so, while around 70,000 refugees were resettled between 1976 and 1982, only about 2000 were boat arrivals. Another 80,000 came through resettlement channels in later years.

Clare Higgins’ work unearthing Immigration Department archives has added invaluable information for understanding the Fraser government and the dark role of the Immigration Department in shaping immigration policy. It deserves to be read. Who knew, for example, that Christmas Island was first suggested as a detention island in 1978 by NT Chief Minister, Paul Everingham?

But her central thesis, that the present inhumane refugee policy has its origins in the mid-1980s, with the Liberal Party breaking with the approach adopted by the Fraser government, is questionable. There is plenty of material in Higgins’ book that shows present refugee policy is a continuation of the approach of the Fraser government rather than any break.

In fact the political underpinnings of the present policy were established under Fraser.

We will decide

At the beginning of 1977, the Fraser government prepared a brief for a UNHCR conference which read in part that the Australian government, “will wish to retain its discretion to determine ultimately who can enter Australian territory and under what conditions newcomers may remain.” Sound familiar?

Fraser admits in his autobiography that the government’s willingness to accept more refugees was a product of increasing boat arrivals, not the scale of the refugee crisis itself.

Fraser didn’t use Abbott’s notorious slogan, but he did want to stop the boats. Fraser’s willingness to resettle Vietnamese refugees from camps in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand was fundamentally based on the assessment that resettlement could help prevent boats travelling to Australia.

Fraser went to extraordinary lengths to prevent boats arriving. Higgins herself recounts the stories of Immigration officers disabling and sinking asylum boats by drilling holes in their hulls to disable the boats and prevent them being used to travel on to Australia.

This was the sharp end of Fraser’s determination to “stop the boats” and ensure that the Vietnamese stayed in countries of first asylum.

But the “border protection” politics that we are now so familiar with were also on display when asylum boats first arrived.

On 22 November 1977, Fraser’s Immigration Minister Michael Mackellar spoke to the NSW branch of Institute of International Affairs, saying, “No country can afford the impression that any group of people who arrive on its shores will be allowed to enter and remain.”

On 26 November 1977, the Sydney Morning Herald ran a front page headline, “Fraser Warns Refugees,” that they were liable to be returned.

Similarly, in November 1977, Fraser’s Foreign Minister told Radio Australia that, “Australia could not be regarded as a dumping ground.”

The international commitment from Canada, the US and France to resettle the Vietnamese from the camps in south-east Asia was crucial to “stopping the boats” getting to Australia. In April 1978, an Australian government delegation went to the US to urge it to use its influence to ensure that Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia prevented the Vietnamese from leaving the camps to sail on to Australia.

Dog whistling

Space limitations prevent a discussion here about who first coined the “queue jumpers” phrase, although Whitlam certainly used the term in the 1977 federal election. For our present purposes, it is enough to know that then Labor shadow Immigration Minister, Moss Cass, recalls an immigration department official using the term at a bi-partisan briefing in April or May 1978. That meeting decided that processing refugees in offshore camps would be prioritised over those who arrived by boat.

In April 1979, Mackellar told The Australian that he, “no longer considered refugees arriving by boat to be ‘queue jumpers’.” The camps in south-east Asia were full and more boats were thought to be on the way to Australia.

But just seven months later, when a boat of 50 people arrived off the West Australian coast, MacKellar issued a press statement expressing concern at the resumption of boat arrivals. “The whole Indo-Chinese refugee program could be placed in jeopardy if refugees continue to arrive in such a manner”, he said. “Apart from the enormous risks involved in such a perilous journey, it is unfair to those in refugee camps who are prepared to wait for orderly processing”.

Mackellar may not have been using the term “queue jumpers”. But his public comments, just as surely, spelled out the queue jumper argument in terms that are still used by politicians today.

People smuggling legislation

Higgins tells the story of the threatened arrival of the Hai Hong, a large steel-hulled vessel carrying 2500 Vietnamese asylum seekers, in November 1978. Indonesia denied it entry. Malaysia refused to allow the passengers to disembark unless there were guarantees of resettling countries. The Hai Hong was left in limbo off the coast of Malaysia as diplomatic cables flew around the world.

Australia made it clear that it would not resettle any asylum seekers on the Hai Hong. But the Fraser government was very worried that the Hai Hong might head for Australia.

Advice prepared in 1978 by the Immigration Department canvassed the whole range of possible mistreatments of boat arrivals that have been progressively imposed over the years. They included, to try and intercept the ship and turn it around at the then three mile ocean boundary; to hold the ship in a remote location and try to force it to leave; to establish a transit camp in a remote locality; and, if compelled to land the passengers, they could be given refugee status but denied resettlement in Australia.

By managing to control the number of boat arrivals, the Fraser government avoided implementing these options. But the proposals were not rejected for all time. In May 1979, Mackellar was still telling Cabinet that a, “detention centre in Darwin” could be necessary.

The government, however, did respond to the possibility of large numbers arriving with the Immigration (Unauthorised Arrivals) Act 1980. It was Australia’s first anti-people smuggling legislation, introduced into Parliament by Mackellar’s successor, Ian Macphee.

Macphee’s introduction repeats the now familiar refrain, that, “Australia would not always be in a position to accept without question large numbers of refugees who push their claims for resettlement ahead of those of their compatriates (sic) who wait patiently in the camps.”

Fraser in context

Any consideration of the Fraser government’s approach as a compassionate alternative also has to consider the overall political context. Foreign policy considerations played a major role in determining refugee policy.

In October 1976 dozens of students at the Thammasat University demonstrating against military dictatorship were killed by the Thai military. Unlike Whitlam, who had allowed all Vietnamese students in Australia to stay after Saigon fell in 1975, Fraser did not allow all Thai students to remain in Australia.

Fraser had little sympathy for the students who were considered left-wing. He also did not want students from other regional dictatorships, like Indonesia, getting any ideas. Many Thai students were subject to deportation orders.

Fraser’s flexibility on human rights can also be seen in regard to East Timor. In 1978, Fraser followed Whitlam’s shameful de facto recognition of Indonesia’s 1975 annexation, and gave de jure recognition in 1979.

It is understandable that refugee supporters look back positively on a time when there was no mandatory detention and when the government organised for around 150,000 Vietnamese to be brought into the country.

As Higgins puts it, “Fraser used his own record to be a vocal critic of policies under later governments… he painted a picture of his own government’s decision making in which [there was] ‘a moral and ethical’ obligation to accept Vietnamese boat arrivals…”

But in fact, ideas like stopping the boats, queue jumpers, making a distinction between good, deserving refugees who stayed in camps to be selected and bad refugees who arrived in Australia by boat, were all approaches that Fraser’s policies pre-figured.

If the refugee campaign had been around under Fraser, it would have had to fight against “stopping the boats” and against vilifying asylum seekers as queue jumpers, just as we do today.

When refugee supporters hanker for the Fraser government, it represents a hope for a genuinely humanitarian refugee policy, where refugees who arrive in transit countries are processed and resettled in Australia, where asylum boats desperately trying to gain protection are welcomed and assisted, rather then being turned back; and where asylum seekers arriving in Australia are not subjected to punitive detention, and certainly not expelled to offshore prisons.

That is what the refugee movement is fighting for. But to end mandatory detention, to close Manus and Nauru, we need to understand the significant ways that means breaking from the politics of the Fraser government.

Influential commentators like Robert Manne, Tim Costello, John Menadue and Frank Brennan have argued that the refugee movement should accept turnbacks in return for the closure of Nauru and Manus Island.

Others argue that the movement should put forward proposals that would be more acceptable to the Labor and Liberal parties—ideas like “regional processing” and “burden sharing” (note the name!) are drawn from the Fraser experience.

The refugee movement needs to fight for a welcome refugee policy that does not compromise human rights.

Asylum by Boat—Origins of Australia’s Refugee Policy
By Claire Higgins, UNSW Press, $29.99

The post Fraser wanted to stop the boats appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Support the Stansted 15: When solidarity becomes a terrorist-related offence liberty and democracy die

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 22/03/2018 - 8:30pm in

Last March, 15 activists chained themselves around an aircraft that was being used by British authorities to deport asylum seekers from Stansted Airport, many of whom had legitimate reasons to fear for their lives if returned to countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan. While at first the Stansted 15 were charged with aggravated trespass, the charges were soon upgraded to terrorism-related offences. This is OUTRAGEOUS. It heralds a brutal turn in Western democracies as demonstrators, conscientious objectors to deportations, defenders of the right to life of the persecuted are treated as terrorists.

This is the moment for people of a genuinely liberal conscience to take a stand. As the court case unfolds in Chelmsford, Essex, it is imperative that the Stansted 15 receive maximal solidarity for those who understand that their prosecution is the harbinger of hideous attacks on what are meant to be open, democratic societies.

Below you can a recent letter to The Guardian in support of the defendants:

Last March, 15 people chained themselves around a deportation charter flight for 10 hours to prevent it taking off. The Stansted 15 were subsequently charged with a terrorism-related offence and their trial starts on Monday. If found guilty, they could serve many years in prison. Secret deportation flights take thousands of people from our communities every year. Parents, friends and neighbours are targeted on the basis of their perceived nationality and snatched to fill a flight that the Home Office has chartered. Many critics have argued that like Trump’s “Muslim ban”, these deportations are unjust and racist. Violence and abuse from security contractors have been documented on these flights. Most people would be horrified if they were aware of the nature of this process.

The Stansted action was the first time a deportation flight has been grounded in the UK by people protesting against the immigration system. People who would have been forced on to the flight were able to stay in the UK because of the action, as it gave them time to have their applications heard. People across the UK are standing together to stop the Home Office breaking up families and tearing communities apart. We call for all charges against the Stansted 15 to be dropped and for the Home Office to immediately cease chartering flights for deportation.
David Ramsbotham Formerly HM chief inspector of prisons
Caroline Lucas Green party leader 
David Lammy MP for Tottenham, Labour party
Philip Pullman Novelist
Naomi Klein Writer and activist
Patrisse Khan-Cullors Co-founder, Black Lives Matter
Gloria Steinem Writer
Aki Kaurismäki Film director and screenwriter
Emma Thompson Actor and screenwriter
Maxine Peake Actor
Ken Loach Film director
Sue Johnston Actor
Jimmy McGovern Screenwriter
John Akomfrah Artist
David Edgar Playwright
Lowkey Musician
Akala Rapper and poet
Awate Rapper
Dame Marina Warner Novelist
Chris Williamson MP for Derby North, Labour party
Lloyd Russell-Moyle Labour and Cooperative MP for Kemptown and Peacehaven
Emma Dent Coad MP for Kensington
Sian Berry Green party
Caroline Russell Green party
Baroness Helena Kennedy QC
Edward Mortimer Distinguished fellow, All Souls College, Oxford
Revd Robert Wiggs Priest, Chelmsford
Pól Ó Ceallaigh President, Oxford and District Trades Union Council
Penny Wangari-Jones Racial Justice Network
Dr Omar Khan Director, the Runnymede Trust
Lisa Matthews Right to Remain
Asad Rehman Director, War on Want
Nick Dearden Director, Global Justice Now
Farzana Khan Platform London
Eve Ensler Writer
Susan George Writer
George Monbiot Journalist
Owen Jones Journalist
Reni Eddo-Lodge Writer
Ahdaf Soueif Writer
Inua Ellams Poet and playwright
Anders Lustgarten Playwright
Josie Long Comedian
Matthew Herbert Musician
Ezra Furman Musician
Caroline Criado-Perez Journalist
Ellie Mae O’Hagan Journalist
Aaron Bastani Journalist
Ash Sarkar Journalist

Caroline Lucas in the Independent
Open Democracy, for an in depth exploration
Novara Media

From Sydney Biennale Installations to Film Screenings, Ai Weiwei Highlights Treatment of Global Refugees

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 21/03/2018 - 2:05am in

Law of the Journey

Ai Weiwei, Law of the Journey, 2017 Installation view (2018) 21st Biennale of Sydney – Courtesy the artist and neugerriemschneider, Berlin. Photo: Document Photography

During a visit to Australia, Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei has blitzed the media with his concerns about the global treatment of refugees.

He is the headline artist with two major installations at the Biennale of Sydney that runs until June 2018. One, called “The Law of the Journey” located at the Cockatoo Island, features a black rubber, inflatable boat and figures. They were made with the same material used to produce the hazardous boats that some asylum seekers and migrants travel in while attempting to cross the Mediterranean.

SBS News (Special Broadcasting Service) posted a video about the work on its Facebook page that has generated a lively discussion. Bean Javin's comment echoed the sentiments of many Australians:

It's really embarrassing when you meet people from overseas and even they know how poorly we treat refugees. Making me ashamed to even admit I am Australian in some cases. It's a greater worry that Australia's method/stance has impacted how other countries treat the refugee crisis right now too.

As explained in earlier Global Voices posts about the issue, Australia has a controversial policy to deal with asylum seekers who arrive by boat, either housing them in offshore detention centres for lengthy periods of time, or turning them back on the spot. They are not permitted to settle in Australia.

Paul Brady clearly disagreed:

Obviously he has no clue about the facts around asylum seekers to Australia. His art work reflects what is happening in the Mediterranean not Australia.

Since 2014, more than 1.7 million people fleeing conflict and insecurity, such as the war in Syria, have arrived to Europe by sea, according to the United Nations. The journey is dangerous: in that same time, about 16,000 perished or went missing in the attempt.

Ai Weiwei's second installation, Crystal Ball, is a glass sphere sitting on life jackets collected from the Greek island of Lesbos, a main entry point for asylum seekers and migrants who cross the Mediterranean:

Ai also spoke at the Cinema Nova for the Melbourne opening of his documentary “Human Flow”, which features the stories of refugees in 23 countries in 2016.

In human flow

Ai Weiwei's HUMAN FLOW documentary, an Amazon Studios release. Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios.

The Amazon Studios press kit shares Ai Weiwei's experiences in making the film:

Day by day, there were endless stories. But what most impressed me was the determination of the refugees. There’s very little complaining even with nobody taking care of them, with no clear future or knowing what will come next. Their treatment to me is very, very inhuman.

He has recently been very critical of Australian government policies towards refugees. He condemned a deal to swap asylum seekers in offshore detention on Manus Island and Nauru with refugees in the United States as, “exactly like slave trading”.

Ai was thanked on Twitter by one of the Manus Island asylum seekers, Iranian journalist Behrouz Boochani:

Kon Karapanagiotidis from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre conducted a live interview on Facebook and Twitter that has since attracted nearly 10,000 viewers:

Ai told Karapanagiotidis:

I don’t have a place I can call home […] home is where your family is, your memories. […] How we deal with the refugees reflects on how we look at ourselves. We sacrifice our values when we give up the fight.

Hanan Ahlam appreciated the opportunity to hear Ai's views:

Australian Broadcasting Corporation talkback radio host Raf Epstein was only one of many people who shared a selfie with the artist:

His interview with Ai starts at 1:17 here. When Epstein asked about the issue of making beautiful pictures out of human misery, Ai responded:

I think even the misery has beauty there. Because it's all about human dignity. […] I have suffered a lot in my life. I still appreciate those moments, maybe more appreciate the moment, than today living in expensive hotels or taking business trips [which] are not as precious as my early struggles.

Audience members at Cinema Nova were also chuffed to meet him:

Human rights lawyer Leanne Smith was clearly captivated by both Ai's film and the Q&A: