This is not about Fiji ..... but it does show how Australia views some of its neighbouring Pacific Island states. Overbearing, big brother, bossy and certainly passing the buck.
from the abc
The top 10 mistakes in the PNG solution
Apart from it being a diplomatic slight with colonial overtones, there are a number of legal and logistical barriers in the way of the Papua New Guinea solution, writes Susan Harris Rimmer.
That noise you heard on Friday afternoon, during Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's announcement that PNG would henceforth process and resettle all boat arrivals? It was the sound of terrible spluttering as every international relations expert in Australia snorted their tea out their nose.
You have been had, dear readers. Tricked. The plan may not work. There are many barriers - diplomatic, legal, financial and logistical. But even if it does "work", that may be worse still. On top of that, the process is riddled with errors and missteps that will cause problems in other areas.
Here are the top 10 mistakes:
- Diplomatic mistake. The name 'Regional Resettlement Arrangement' is a fake. There is such a thing as a regional resettlement arrangement, such as the Comprehensive Plan of Action for Indo-Chinese refugees in the 1980s or the EU Dublin Convention. Even the Bali Process on People-Smuggling. This is not one of them. This is outsourcing asylum and outsourcing durable solutions to the same nations we give official development assistance to. More on that anon. If it was a regional document, we might have told Indonesia and Nauru about it. Or even the rest of the PNG Parliament.
- Colonial insult. I object to the 'hellhole' narrative about PNG in the Australian press this week. Our neighbour deserves our respect. And this PNG solution looks, sounds and smells like a colonial move. Would we ask Japan or France to do this? If not, guess what every developing country is thinking about us right now. Anything we need a vote to achieve in the UN? Forget it.
- Political hypocrisy. Unlike our unfounded panic, PNG has real issues when it comes to refugees. PNG already hosts 9,000 West Papuan refugees and more could come if there are further Indonesian crackdowns. In short, they have enough on their plate and do not want to create pull factors.
- Logistical barrier. The UN found that PNG does not have a functional legal framework to determine refugee status, so Australia retains the responsibility for non-refoulement (or non-return of refugees to where they would be persecuted). The UN also found the conditions on Manus Island to be "harsh, hot humid, damp and cramped". These conditions can be fixed, but at such a cost and high degree of legal complication over land rights, it makes Christmas Island look pretty straightforward.
- Legal impediments. PNG has opted out of seven crucial obligations to the 1951 Refugee Convention, including the welfare provisions which cover the ability of a refugee to be treated the same as a national in terms of wage-earning employment, elementary education, basic housing and freedom of movement, but also expulsion from the territory without due process, and naturalisation. PNG says it will lift these reservations in relation to the transferred asylum seekers. But not in relation to others? What about West Papuans? It doesn't normally work like this. A subclass of refugees and the rights of local people - looks like a recipe for social unrest.
- More legal issues. Nine out of 10 international lawyers will tell you this is a big fat mess (that's the technical legal term) outside the imagined boundaries of the 1951 Convention. (The other lawyer must be working for the Attorney-General.) The European Court of Human Rights has ruled in the past that de facto control over refugees is enough to invoke Refugee Convention protections. Does Australia therefore exercise effective control over transferred people on PNG? We pay for everything and make all the decisions regarding these people. The age-old legal principle "if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck" (I'll forfend from citing the Latin) may be applied - in short, anything that happens to these people in PNG or beyond is our legal responsibility.
- PNG is not a signatory to Convention against Torture, which also has non-refoulement provisions. What happens then? This hasn't been tested fully in Australia as the Malaysia case had different facts but our High Court isn't easily fooled and will look at the effective protection offered in PNG and whether Australia can transfer asylum seekers, including children, for resettlement rather than just processing.
- Then there is the nagging question of the past 13 years. What about the asylum seekers who come by plane? Are we not applying a penalty to refugees based on their mode of arrival? Which is illegal? Not to mention that PNG has a constitution which is less coy than ours about the illegality of mandatory indefinite detention.
- There is also the basic human rights question of whether the Government's response is reasonable and proportionate and directed at the problem - the problem being defined as either the scourge of people smuggling or deaths at sea. It is all very well for PM Rudd to talk tough to people smugglers down the barrel of the camera, but I ask you, do you deal with child trafficking by punishing the kids?
- Another question that haunts me is, what if it works? And in the short term, I think it might. We save some lives at sea, but the same people might succumb to despair away from the cameras. What happens to the 6,000 refugees stuck in Indonesia waiting for one of our 600 places a year? What happens to the Iranians stuck in Iran who cannot get a visa? What happens to the Hazaras when we leave Afghanistan?
So Prime Minister, a little Bible study might be needed as you ponder further the decisions you take in this election campaign. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?
Dr Susan Harris Rimmer is the director of studies at the Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy at the Australian National University. View her full profile here.