Debates in Ireland over Australian policies on detention

Catherine Driscoll catherine.driscoll at
Wed Mar 22 17:07:08 PST 2000

wow deborah why are you calling angela out???

At 10:29 AM 22/03/2000 +1100, you wrote:
> (perhaps rc-am should come out of the closet a little and explain their
>position on refugee camps in Australia, rather than just posting Irish
>newspaper columns with inflammatory letters to the editor attached...)
> Mandatory sentencing and Refugee camps in Australia:
> I think that at present the Australian Federal government is making an
>absolute hash of things in regards to human rights. That's obvious on any
>number of fronts, including it's refusal to hold a conscience vote on the
>practice of mandatory sentencing in two of its states; the above-claimed
>operation of 'detention centres' in the outback; and last but not least its
>attempt to rewrite the actual authority and operation of our national Human
>Rights commission. However, not all of these issues are black and white,
>because they are complicated by various national and international laws.
>And like most governments - i guess - the Australian government will
>respond to criticism from the UN only when that criticism is made explicit.
>Right now they're just dodging the call.
> Mandatory sentencing: Next month two UN rapporteurs will arrive, one to
>examine aspects of racism in this country, the other with a specific
>mandate to look at 'arbitrary detention'. Now, arbitrary detention could
>cover *both* the issue of mandatory sentencing and the issue of refugee
>detention. Both issues are also potentially racial issues given that most
>of the people actually suffering from the mandatory sentencing laws are
>Aborigine. It's rather more obvious why racism might be a factor in the
>operation of refugee camps.
> The issue of mandatory sentencing is completely uncomplicated, since these
>laws are a transparent case of racial discrimination and also an abuse of
>the rights of the child. They should be repealed immediately. However, the
>states in this country are organised as sovereign states, giving them
>particular legal jurisdictions. The Federal Government could override them
>if it chose, but it would require a vote. At present, there are (almost
>daily) Bills being put forward by opposition members of parliament in an
>attempt to bring this matter forward.
> perception - government, media, public - that perhaps many of these
>illegal immigrants are not 'refugees' of war, political persecution, etc.
>Reports from residents of islands where these people have landed say things
>like 'well i saw them getting of their boats with their Gucci sunglasses
>and their Luis Vuitton luggage'. This kind of thing makes people rather
>skeptical. The amount of money spent by 'refugees' flying from Iraq to
>Indonesia and then catching a boat to Australia has also been highlighted.
> However what is not discussed in the media, generally, is how the West may
>well be complicit in, specifically, the formation of Iranian and Iraqi
>refugee subjects. It would seem that the West does have a responsibility to
>these people. Aren't we the ones who impose sanctions and make life
>conditions appalling in these countries? I would like to hear more
>discussion of how Australia or any Western nation could evaluate its
>liability to refugees of Western capitalism and US war games.
> The conditions of refugee camps/detention centres are not hideous. They
>are very basic, but they are not tents and trench toilets. The detention
>centres are buildings, have beds, latrines, regular meals, and are staffed
>with doctors, counsellors, and case advisors. However, there are reports
>that even with the recent building of new detention centres conditions are
>becoming overcrowded. People have said that locating these people 'in the
>desert' is unfair. It's true, detention centres are usually located in
>isolated areas. This means that armed security is, in general, quite
>unnecessary. If people walked out of the detention center in the Woomera
>desert, they'd probably die before they got to the next town. This makes
>them dependent on the centre. (It should be remembered that Australia is
>around 85% desert. Water is a scarce commodity in Australia, becoming
> If the Irish newspapers want to claim that Australia has taken the wrong
>approach to managing a sudden increase (from late last year to now) in the
>illegal immigrant population, it should be remembered that this is an
>island continent. It is not a portion of the European continent, where
>people pass through national borders with scarcely a wave of their EU
>passport. Illegal immigration to Australia is highly planned, organised at
>a numbers of co-ordinated arrival and departure points, and is actually
>quite expensive (therefore it might be argued that many of the Chines/Iraq
>refugees come from the more well-off classes in those nations
>respectively). Can it be compared to the conditions in Europe? If so, what
>methods do the newspaper reporters and outraged Irish citizens propose as
>alternative measures to the ones that are currently being deployed by
>Australia? By the way, Amnesty International has today condemned an attempt
>from our Immigration minister to have the UN Refugee laws 'reconsidered'.
>This is fine by me, as it would seem that racism and immigration laws
>always go hand in hand, and Amnesty has an important position. It leaves
>open however the way in which the West can articulate a position in
>response to 'illegal' immigration into nation-states that are globalised
>economies, and whose fetishisation of commodity culture seems to be at
>least one factor in the production of refugee subjects.
> Deborah
> At 12:37 AM 22/03/00 +1100, you wrote:
>>[from the Editorial of the Examiner, Ireland:]
>>The shambles of Ireland’s policy on immigrants
>>The Examiner
>>21 March 2000
>>IRELAND’S policy on immigration is in a total state of disarray judging by
>> With some
>>justification, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has drawn considerable flak for
>>rashly endorsing Australia’s policy of detaining immigrants in compounds
>>behind barbed wire. At the same time Justice Minister John O’Donoghue has
>>confirmed that he is considering housing immigrants in “floating hotels”
>>off the coast while applications for asylum are processed.
>>Over the weekend, a Government spokesman moved to dispel reports that
>>Ireland was about to incarcerate people in compounds. And yesterday,
>>presumably in a move to distance herself from the Taoiseach’s line of
>>thinking, Tánaiste Mary Harney has emphasised that neither she nor her
>>party would favour setting up detention centres. To her credit, Ms Harney
>>has made it clear the PDs would oppose any move to impound immigrants in
>>this manner.
>>Clearly, the Government is now trying to draw the sting of Opposition
>>criticism in advance of what promises to be a heated Dáil debate on the
>>controversy. However, we have yet to hear the Taoiseach spell out exactly
>>what appeals to him about an Australian system which has been rejected by
>>the UN High Commission for Refugees.
>>It is generally accepted that something must be done about the growing
>>numbers of people coming to this country illegally. According to official
>>estimates, around 1,000 people arrive in Ireland by the back door every
>>month. Many of them are economic rather than political asylum seekers,
>>attracted by Ireland’s booming economy and lack of clearly defined
>>policies on immigration, problems which are reflected throughout the EU.
>>With intense pressure on public housing, there is no gainsaying that
>>genuine problems arise when it comes to providing instant accommodation
>>for large numbers of immigrants. Whatever policy the Government finally un
>>veils must reflect caring and Christian attitudes towards our fellow human
>>The outdated, colonial approach to immigration embraced by Australia,
>>where Aboriginals have also been treated so shamefully, must be eschewed.
>>By the same coin, Irish people have not been noted for tolerance towards
>>strangers who come to live here and we continue to treat travellers as
>>second class citizens. It is imperative for Government to replace the
>>present shambles with an effective system based on qualities of compassion
>>and respect for immigrants, and also for the Taoiseach to end the utterly
>>unacceptable practice of policy making on the hoof.
>>& from the Letters section of the Irish Times):
>>A Chara, - As a Fianna Fáil supporter, I write to register my utter
>>disgust at the recent remarks made by An Taoiseach in Australia. During a
>>recent visit to that country, I was deeply disappointed to discover the
>>sheer level of racist ignorance that is endemic in Australian society.
>>Extremist anti-immigrant opportunistic politicians enjoy a disturbingly
>>high level of support, whilst many of their followers yearn for a return
>>"" policy. The United Nations has quite
>>"". However, their existence
>>continues to enjoy enormous public support. Australia deserves to be
>>internationally condemned for its current policy on asylum seekers. The
>>fact that our Taoiseach admires their immoral approach contrasts markedly
>>with his response to the election of Mr Haidler in Austria. Mr Ahern's
>>ill-chosen, idiotic comments in Australia are nothing short of a
>> RUAIRI HANLEY, Stillorgan, Co Dublin.

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