The reality of the Abbott government’s brutal refugee policy has been brought to the fore once again. Last month, 41 Tamil asylum seekers were handed back to the Sri Lankan navy after their boat was intercepted at sea.
By Tim Tran, Socialist Party
These people are now in the hands of the repressive regime they were fleeing from – a regime responsible for the massacre of thousands of Tamil people. More than 5 years after the war, Tamils in Sri Lanka are still routinely harassed, assaulted and living in constant fear under military control.
Despite what Abbott would like us to believe the situation in Sri Lanka is far from safe. Just recently, religious violence saw the thuggish Buddhist organisation Bodu Bala Sena kill 4 people – 3 Muslim and one Tamil. Over 100 more were injured.
While they are accused of war crimes and human right violations the Australian government has been building closer ties with the Sri Lankan regime. Immigration Minister Scott Morrison recently visited Sri Lanka to donate two patrol boats that would be used to stop refugees fleeing the island.
It has been confirmed that most of the 41 refugees sent back to Sri Lanka went straight to jail. At the same time more than 150 other Tamil asylum seekers are still being held on an Australian naval ship. They are kept in rooms without windows and have not been told where they are or where the Abbott government plans to take them.
It has been reported that these refugees can only leave their rooms in the presence of guards, their possessions have been seized and they are being denied access to legal advice. The existence of prison naval ship carrying 150 refugees was only confirmed when a court case initiated by refugee advocates directed the government to release information.
The court challenge has helped get some limited information and has prevented the government from moving them without 72 hours’ notice. They still however face deportation or the prospect of being locked up for years in an offshore detention centre.
The policies of offshore processing and mandatory detention mean that those fleeing war and persecution face tough choices. These policies have been supported by both the major parties but Abbott has taken the approach to new levels with billions of dollars being spent in order to deter a tiny number of people that are seeking protection.
While Australia is facing economic uncertainty, the government is using the refugee issue to try and divert attention away from its cuts to living standards. They hope to give the impression that it is “illegal immigrants” putting pressure on our living standards as opposed to his budget measures that favour big business.
The truth is that it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to keep each refugee locked up in detention. Most of that money is siphoned off into the coffers of private companies like G4S. These companies are unashamedly making profits out of people’s suffering. That money would be much better used to create jobs, homes and services for everyone including refugees.
It is in the interests of all ordinary people to demand an end to the draconian treatment of refugees. We need to stand opposed to the government’s attempts to pit people against each and push for the wealth that is created to be distributed more equally.
If the top 1% in society weren’t profiteering at the expense of the rest of us there would be more than enough wealth to improve everyone’s living standards including those that flee here in search of protection.
Ultimately it is the profit driven capitalist system that lies at the heart of the refugee issue. There can be no end to the refugee crisis in the world unless this inhumane system is challenged.