I know politicians can be cold and calculated, but footage of Immigration Minister Scott Morrison addressing asylum seekers detained on Manus Island and Nauru is chilling. With sombre, determined tones he advises asylum seekers that they are where they are because “you entered Australia illegally”, that “you will be here for a very, very long time”, that “you will never enter Australia” and that “I urge you to think carefully about your next decision and to make a decision to get on with the rest of your life and to not remain here and take the option to go back to the country from which you’ve originally come.”
Remember that over 90% of asylum seekers who come by boat are found to be refugees. They are women who’ve been raped, men who’ve had limbs broken by government officials, parents whose children have been murdered, children who’ve been subject to politically motivated violence.
They are people who mistakenly believed Australia is a country that abides by the rule of law, that we would respect the treaty we signed guaranteeing that those fleeing persecution could come to us and we would protect them.
But they were wrong.
Mr Morrison, they did not come to Australia illegally. International law affords those fleeing persecution the right to enter another country even though they are without the usual authorisations. International law demands we offer protection of their human rights, not that we lock them up for “a very, very long time.” An absolute pinnacle of international law is the principle of nonrefoulement, that refugees not be returned to danger, yet here you are menacingly telling refugees to return to where they’ve come from – to death squads, beatings, false imprisonment, torture, rape. It is not only a flagrant violation of international law, it is inhumane and indecent.
The refugee convention was created to protect refugees from the sort of policies we now espouse. Australia was the sixth signatory, the signatory that gave the Convention it’s legal force. Look at us now.
Scott Morrison, you should be ashamed. I know I am.