I was in Sydney again last weekend – predominantly for a meeting of the Democrats’ National Executive – but I used the chance to attend the launch of a new book by Mary Crock, an academic with a lot of history and expertise in immigration law.
The book is called Seeking Asylum Alone,which specifically focuses on the experiences of unaccompanied and separated children who arrive in – mostly as asylum seekers. The ‘launching’ was done by author, Tom Kenneally. For a Sunday morning event, it was very well attended. I noticed former WA Premier, Geoff Gallop, who now lives in Sydney, among those in the crowd.
One of the major flaws of political ‘debate’ is that most of us – on all parts of the political spectrum – spend a lot of time asserting various views about the benefits or problems of taking particular actions without actually following through to find out what the actual impact is.
The refugee ‘debate’ is just one example of this, where a lot of assertions have been made, but very little has been done to see what actually ends up happening to the people who are impacted by the laws passed as a result of the political and public ‘debate’. (The reason I put ‘debate’ in inverted commas is that a debate conducted without facts or reference to any solid information is really not much better than a shouting contest.)
This book seeks to remedy that situation. It is basically a report on the “physical, legal and administrative experiences of unaccompanied and separated children seeking refugee protection in Australia. It focuses on the cases of 85 of the approximately 290 unaccompanied or separated children who arrived in Australia between 1999 and 2003 without valid visas. This includes a number of interviews with those children. The book is quite deliberately academic in tone, trying to detail the experiences of the children without getting into emotive commentary. There are many things one can draw from the book, but for now I’ll note just two.
Firstly, it is very timely in highlighting the indisputable fact that those children who were forced over to Nauru were much more likely to end up having their protection claims rejected and forced back to situations of danger – a situation that will be replicated if Liberal Party Senators allow the government’s latest anti-refugee legislation to pass when it is finally brought on for debate in the Senate.
Secondly, given all the competing assertions about how fair or otherwise the government’s refugee laws are, it is amazing how little systematic work has been done following up what the experiences have been for the people who have been subjected to the consequences.
One other book on this topic is Following Them Home by David Corbett, which tried to find out what happened to some of the asylum seekers rejected by Australia and forced back ‘home’, including many who had been locked up on
You can read Mary Crock’s submission to the Senate Inquiry into the latest refugee legislation, which draws on her research, by clicking on this link. Her book is part of a larger series of similar studies of unaccompanied children seeking protection. This link goes to a summary of a similar study examining the USA.