The last shred of Gillard’s deterrent policy has ripped
Since August 13 the Government has been forced to pack almost all its asylum seeker deterrents into the rickety vessel called Off-Shore Processing. Today the Government had to acknowledge its policy craft had sunk.
Any discouragement of asylum seekers it might have carried has disappeared. In fact, the prospects for boat people look somewhat brighter. Nauru and Christmas Island have been overwhelmed by asylum seeker arrivals since August 13, and Manus Island in P-NG is only now open for business and soon will be full.
So Immigration Minister Chris Bowen today announced that two on-shore centre in Tasmania and Victoria would be re-opened as detention facilities and more asylum seekers would be sent into the general community.
The minister attempted to argue that while the in-comings were increasing in number there also were outgoings. Just over 500 boat people had been returned - voluntarily of involuntarily - to Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.
That total since August 13 amounts to roughly the same number of refugee applicants who have arrived since Sunday.
The date August 13 is important because that is the day on which the Government declared it would take up the Nauru and Manus options, and that arrivals from that date could end up there and would not gain any advantage from turning up without official invitation.
That could mean, it was strongly suggested, they might be in detention for five years or more. Today the Government had to confront the reality that the post-August 13 combination of threat and menace had not worked.
And it now seems possible that any fresh arrivals will not be sent to Nauru, where some detainees are mounting hunger strikes and launching violent protests, but the relatively comfy accommodation of Tasmania and outer Melbourne.
Even accepting that these people, too, would have the “no-advantage” principle applied to them, five years on the mainland with the prospect of a merging with the local community at some stage would seem quite promising to a genuine refugee thinking about making the trip.
The people smugglers’ business model is in better shape than that lost policy vessel Off-Shore Processing.
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