“No advantage” is a cruel understatement Mr Bowen
A one-way Qantas flight from Darwin to Jakarta costs as little as $441. That’s worth bearing in mind as the federal government moves ahead with its woeful plan to release asylum seekers out of detention, expecting them to live on welfare payments of around $220 a week and denying them the right to work for up to FIVE YEARS.
State governments predict a “social catastrophe”; welfare groups say it will put enormous pressure on already over-stretched programs and resources; and Labor Left faction chief Doug Cameron warns of a new “underclass” if 8000 detainees are dumped into communities across Australia.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen, however, maintains it’s all part of a “no advantage” regime that sends a strong message to prospective asylum seekers that they’ll be no better off if they jump genuine refugee queues and arrive by boat.
“No advantage” is right.
No advantage in terms of stopping the boats. If your life was in danger in your Middle Eastern homeland, or you faced the prospect of years (even decades) in some crowded, god-forsaken Asian detention hell-hole, wouldn’t the eventual prize of $220 weekly welfare payments in some sunny Australian city sound rather alluring – even without work rights?
No advantage for Australian taxpayers who will fork out millions (8000 people x $220 x 52 weeks x 5 years = $458m at the very least). Add to that the untold millions in mental health programs and counselling services that will be needed to support people languishing in a societal twilight zone.
No advantage to the local communities who’ll be forced to pick up the pieces. As NSW Minister for Community Services Pru Goward said this week: “Five years ... is an enormous amount of time for already traumatised people (who often lack) work skills and language skills. I think that would be disastrous for a lot of families and their surrounding communities.”
No advantage for the self-respect and dignity of the people who seek Australia’s assistance.
I’m not talking about so-called “economic migrants” who are arriving in increasing numbers from Sri Lanka – many are already being flown straight home. I mean those who are deemed genuine refugees but will still be subject to these cruel bridging visas.
And finally, no advantage to Australia as a cohesive, fair and welcoming society, with anti-refugee rhetoric already empowering xenophobes as we’ve seen this week when a tourist was vilified on a bus simply for singing in French.
On Friday, Opposition leader Tony Abbott announced a Coalition government would ensure asylum seekers on bridging visas worked for their welfare payments to break the “something for nothing mentality”.
That premise is at odds with welfare agency workers who say many asylum seekers are desperate to find work: to earn an honest living; to meet new people; to contribute to society; to learn English; to fit in.
But if neither major party is willing to afford refugees the dignity of paid work, I agree that Mr Abbott’s plan is the way to go. It would at least give refugees some purpose in their new lives.
The saddest aspect in all of this, and I suppose it’s the unfortunate consequence of a global humanitarian dilemma that really has no fair and humane solution, is that both Labor and the Coalition are heading ever further to the right on asylum seeker policy.
What hope do these poor people have of being genuinely welcomed into wider society when politicians label them “illegal arrivals” undertaking in a “peaceful invasion” of our “uncontrolled borders”.
It makes you wonder if a quick, cheap Qantas flight out of Darwin, bound for Indonesia, might be a fairer course of action. That’s one “no advantage” policy that would surely stop the boats.
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