After a ridiculous wait of nearly a month, dithering and chewing up many thousands of taxpayers dollars, the federal government has finally announced they will be sending over 80 Sri Lankan asylum seekers to be ‘processed’ on Nauru. This has of course been done before, and we know what happened.
It took up to 5 years for some cases to be finalised, with many people still in a state of anxiety and uncertainty on temporary visas, remaining forcibly separated from their immediate families after a minimum of 6 years and often much longer. The process of deliberately enforced isolation, lack of support and continuing pressure on people to return from where they fled caused immense harm to many people, including many seriously traumatised children. Many people were pressured into going back and had to flee once again. The decision making process was shoddy and unaccountable to say the least. The extra cost of the Australian was tens of millions of dollars. The message sent to Pacific Island nations is that international civil, legal and humanitarian obligations are optional and can be ignored when it is politically advantageous, and it is OK for countries to co-operate in this if a wealthier nation is willing to pay them to do it.
The practice of removing asylum claims outside the rule of law also played a key role in developing what the federal government admitted were major ‘cultural problems’ within the Immigration Department, which are supposedly being fixed at the cost of tens of millions of dollars.
Knowing what we know now about the costs and consequences of such an approach, our federal government is doing it all again. There’s not much point having a government with ‘experience’, if they won’t learn from it.