Keys refugee dog whistle | The Jackal

12 Feb 2013

Keys refugee dog whistle

The recent spat of fear mongering by the media and National concerning refugees is obviously to take the focus off other more important issues... But let's have a look at it anyway.

Today, Radio NZ reported:

Prime Minister John Key says it is possible New Zealand will use Australia's offshore detention centres to process mass arrivals of asylum-seekers.

He says New Zealand can't rule out the very real possibility that such people will eventually make it here in significant numbers.

Such People? There's very little chance that a boatload of refugees is going to travel another 2,250 km to a lower standard of living in New Zealand, and if they did, the best solution would be to look after them as best we can.

Just before Christmas, he says, Australian intelligence agencies believed a boat was heading to New Zealand from Indonesia.

This is clearly a dog whistle that John Key is blowing as hard and as loud as he can to drum up support from the bigots.

But what the xenophobes really need to understand is that New Zealand has an obligation under its agreement with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to take 750 refugees per year.

However the government only lets in a fraction of that amount with around 200 people per year or roughly 25% of the total allocated. New Zealand is therefore failing to adhere to its international refugee obligations.

Mr Key says he understands the boat was either prevented from leaving, or intercepted.

He says the Government is spending tens of millions of dollars upgrading the Mangere Refugee Centre, but other options have to be considered.

Key is clearly making shit up and would be hard pressed to supply any evidence of his claims. What National is also doing is wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on another jail when there's no evidence that it will be required to process refugees.

Asylum-seekers who have already reached Australia are in the process of being transferred to the Australian-run Manus Island detention centre in Papua New Guinea.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees recently labelled the centre unlawful, and criticised the conditions as inhumane. A similar centre in Nauru reopened in August, and there are centres in mainland Australia too.

Mr Key says there have already been discussions between New Zealand and Australia about sending people to offshore centres if boatloads of illegal arrivals start to turn up in New Zealand waters.

He says he's been assured by Australian prime minister Julia Gillard that conditions at the centres meet international standards.

Does Key honestly believe it's a good idea to transfer New Zealand refugees into Australian Detention Centres when we're not even adhering to our refugee quota under the UNHCR obligations in the first place?

That seems to be a most silly idea especially considering the Australian Detention Centres have recently been severely criticized by the United Nations High Commissioner.

Despite what Julia Gillard believes, Australian Detention Centres clearly don't meet international standards... You can read the UNHCR's full report here (PDF)... Here's some of its more relevant findings:

There are still very significant inadequacies in the legal and operational framework governing the transfer, treatment and processing of transferees from Australia to PNG, which require priority attention.

The determination process fails to properly identify whether a transferee is a refugee in need of protection under Australia and PNG’s obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention.

The temporary living conditions for most transferees at the closed detention setting remain harsh and, for some, inadequate. The centre also has arbitrary detention that is inconsistent with international human rights law.

The on-going delays in establishing any procedures to assess children’s refugee protection needs, and broader best interests, are particularly troubling.

Assessed as a whole, the current arrangements for the transfer of asylum seekers to unsatisfactory temporary facilities, within a closed detention setting, and in the absence of a legal framework and functional system to assess refugee claims, do not currently meet the required international protection standards.

It's therefore pretty obvious that the Australian Detention Centres are hellholes that systematically breach people's human rights, and that's where the ignoramus Key wants to send people who are looking for a brighter future.

With regular hunger strikes and the odd riot, Australian Detention Centres are obviously not the place we should use in the unlikely event of a mass arrival of refugees to New Zealand.