Asylum seeker rant
highlights a piece by another leftie blogger, which exposes a dastardly "secret" plan (covered in the Guardian
) by the Blair government to deport most of its 100,000 or so annual flow of asylum seekers back to refugee camps in the region from which they came, to have their applications processed there. Appalling! Blair must have been listening to John Howard instead of reading Green Left Weekly
. How could Tony have been so misled by a patently racist little man like Howard?
Well, for a start, it might have something to do with the fact that 100, 000 asylum seekers every year is an awful lot in a small densely populated nation like Britain, especially when they're overwhelmingly poorly educated, lacking in English language or employment skills, and have cultural and religious backgrounds that guarantee drastic urban social probems in British cities if effective action isn't taken. It might also be related to the fact that less than 20% of asylum seekers are found to be genuine, yet 70% of them abscond and disappear as soon as they're notified that their applications to stay in Britain have been unsuccessful. Crime, drugs, and unemployment-related violence are skyrocketing in British cities as a direct result. Still, I suppose the Poms could all move to upper middle class suburban Washington, where they would have the luxury of taking a much more compassionate view of the situation while dining with advisers to Condoleeza Rice (sorry, a low blow but this sort of sanctimonious crap really makes me angry).
Tim appears to label as "crap" a suggestion by British officials that their new plan will be presented to UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers when he visits Britain next week. However, as I covered in detail back in September last year
, this new British plan (and, for that matter, the Howard government's offshore 'Christmas Island solution' processing scheme) appears to coincide quite closely with Lubbers' own ideas for dealing with the massive challenges posed for western nations by the advent of large scale people smuggling. The UN itself estimates that people smugglers move more than 1 million asylum seekers annually, overwhelmingly to wealthy western countries, and make profits estimated at between 10 and 20 billion dollars each year. Not as profitable as drugs, but a lot safer (though not for the asylum seekers). That phenomenon was simply not foreseen when western nations negotiated the Refugee Convention
back in 1951. Even so, the obligations they were prepared to accept were extremely limited. The reality is that no
western government, whether headed by an "evil racist" like John Howard or a marshmallow faux-leftie like Tony Blair, can afford to fail to take effective action against a problem of the magnitude posed by people smuggling.
We need to keep in mind that promoting a system where asylum seekers are processed in refugee camps in countries adjacent to their homeland is nowhere near as unfair as Tim (and the blogger he links) makes it sound. The overwhelming majority of refugees have always
been dealt with in that way, and that is what the Refugee Convention
envisaged. It's only the (relatively) wealthy few who can afford to subvert that system and pay people smugglers to get them to a wealthy country with a cushy social security system and good job prospects. Moreover, research suggests that the vast majority of refugees need only temporary asylum, which can best be provided in a location where they can conveniently return home when it becomes safe to do so. Allowing those who can afford to pay people smugglers to absorb permanent places in western countries necessarily means that there are less places available for those who genuinely
will never be able to return safely to their homeland. In that sense, Ruddock's demonisation of onshore asylum seekers as "queue jumpers" is perfectly true.
Lastly, most of the third world countries who host large refugee camps aren't actually complaining about it. Why? Because they provide the land for the camps, but not the money. Camps are funded by the world community (i.e. overwhelmingly the first world) and administered by UNHCR and overseas aid agencies. Having camps within one's borders is in many ways an economic benefit: supplies are sourced locally, and local jobs are generated through servicing the refugee camps. In some African countries, the money flowing in through hosting refugee camps represents a substantial proportion of national income.