Seeking Asylum Alone

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.

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14 Comments

  1. I know a good many of the kids Mary interviewed because Jeremy Moore and his team led the charge to get them out of detention, not Julian Burnside as Mary thinks.

    It was our state welfare and the Woomera lawyers who found an 8 year old “screened out” and alone in Woomera from June 2001 until October 2001. DIMA had decided without a lawyer or ever asking this little boy that he was not a refugee.

    Then they found a 12 year old forced to cope in a flat alone and got him foster parents.

    Most of the boys had tried to harm themselves, slash or hang themselves and others had pledged suicide pacts.

    I remember listening to BBC in January 2002 with tears pouring down my face as Rob McDonald and Paul Boylan described how a group of my lovely Afghan boys had decided to kill themselves in Woomera.

    I have read the reports so I know it was taken very seiously by ACM who actually pleaded with Ruddock to fix it. The BBC reporter, Robin Lustig, was appalled that these boys would survive the Taliban only to want to die in Australia.

    They were finally taken out and put under house arrest. They had to have 24/7 guards, couldn’t go to school without one and quite frankly most of them lost the plot entirely and some ended up in Glenside.

    Others were beaten by guards at the age of 13, one boy was beaten by 3 guards and the Woomera lawyers had to fight for 2 years to have them charged only to have the charges dismissed because they had flown the coop.

    One got re-employed by ACM and kept right on bashing kids.

    Children hung themselves, drank shampoo, slashed their wrists, tried to jump off the fences and drank insecticide.

    All the reports are in the HREOC “A Last resort” report but it seems people couldn’t be bothered to read the transcripts of the people who gave the evidence.

    I am glad Mary did this book and will get it as soon as it is actually available.

    The latest DIMA disgrace is to say to these kids now that they all have permanent residence that now they have turned 18 they have no right to bring their parents under the CROC and they have all been denied the right to just sponsor them.

    It is an outrage – some of these kids have been away from their parents since early 2000.

  2. Australia has no obligation to any refugee who washes up on our shores. Forget the paperwork and agreements that are now outdated. There are simply to many refugees (exercise some birth control people), and not enough responsible governments in developing countries.

    Our government has a responsibilty to Australian born and bred citizens. The Democrats would prefer to shaft the aussies for the imports.

  3. David, I’m struggling to know where to start to counterract your argument – which I don’t find to be an argument at all. Do you feel any moral sense to help those who are less well off than yourself?

  4. David I am with you.

    Australia for its small numbers is one of the biggest givers in tghe world.

    Muzz yes of course but does every post have to be about A, Seekers?

    Enough is enough . We have our own people living on the streets and the aboriginal people who we continue to put last.
    I mean last. even after them.
    Whats the matter with you people cant you see your own suffering.

  5. PALE – Did you read Andrew\’s piece at the top of this page? This thread is about asylum seekers and refugees!

  6. PALE – I see a lot of people suffering and I don’t think it’s useful or moral to stop helping at our national borders (which seem to have shrunk given the excision of certain islands).

    My main problem with those who say “look after our pwn first” is that where do you draw the line at looking after our own? Do we not help anyone outside our border until every single Australian is out of poverty and disease free?

    I’m confident Australia is capable of trying to help both our own and others at the same time.

  7. The real problem muzzmonster is that by wasting billions in bombing, killing and destroying human beings in far away places and smashing up the lives of the few refugees who manage to come our way we actually are not managing to help anyone properly.

    David Marr now estimates that keeping a few Afghans off the TAMPA out of Australia cost about $1 billion, then we had to finally settle 28 of them here anyway while New Zealand kindly took in 208 of them. So much for none of them being refugees.

    Thing is though it cost New Zealand $3 million against our one billion. Guess who might just have got it right?

    Imagine the homes that could have been built in the Alice for that $1 billion, Ruddock always knew they were only refugees, instead of the waste in the Pacific?

    Every aborigine could have had a decent home by now instead of being crammed 30 to a hovel.

    It’s a ludicrous claim to suggest we should look after one group and not another really isn’t it when we don’t look after either?

  8. Feral
    I repeat I am with you David.
    Australians come first and we are not going to put these people BEFORE Australians.

    This is about Australia and the last time I checked Andrew was an Australian Poly.

    Put of his job is to know how the main stream Australians feel.
    Which by the way has been made pretty clear in the past.
    that being> We will decide who comes and who stays.
    You cant say Australia has shunned migrants. We are a muliticulture country.,

    Also M gates crashes every single post with your agenda so learn to live by the rules that you wish to make.
    All of them.

  9. so what your saying marilyn is we should have sent the ppl from the tampa home on the cheep and built some houses for our own ppl who are in need.
    sounds ok to me

  10. PALE

    1) This thread is clearly about refugee and asylum seekers

    2) Muzzmonster was attempting to address David’s comment in a way that was clearly on topic

    3) You criticized Muzzmonster for addressing the topic of this thread

    4) I reminded you of that topic

    5)In your response to me you: re-define the topic of this thread as being ‘about Australia’; once again falsely conflate migration issues with refugee issues; repeat the spurious claim that Australia cannot help its own disadvantaged while assisting refugees, despite this being rebutted several times on this blog in the last week or so; announce that I have Marilyn at work busily spreading ‘my’ agenda; also announce that I set the rules on Andrew B’s blog.

    You will need to try harder than that if you want to be taken seriously.

  11. No red, I don’t think we should have sent home the refugees on the TAMPA – they should have been flown to Australia from Christmas Island like 10,000 others before him were, has their claims assessed and released into the community as the other 10,000 were.

    Refugees aren’t migrants – migrants make the choice to come from one safe place to another while refugees have no choice at all.

    Time for Australia to grow up and stop whining about a few refugees. If they send 8 Burmese people to Nauru it will cost about $1 million per person depending on how long they are there.

    What is the point? If they are from the dispossessed Karen tribe they are probably refugees so we should just save our money, assess them as we did the West Papuans and bring them to Australia.

    If they wanted to go to Nauru they would have, but Nauru is not a signatory to the refugee convention so there is no point.

    Nor is Malaysia, they can’t go into Cambodia, Thailand has hosted them for 20 years without help – some 20,000 of them- Indonesia is not a signatory to the convention so the Burmese have come directly from the place of persecution to the only signatory to the refugee convention.

    Just like all the Afghans and most of the Iraqis and Iranians did.

  12. much abuse would be avoided by putting in a tendor for the contracts of running these camps by Australians.

    Also because many are in regional areas jobs for aboriginal people as well comes to mind.

    Offshore groups are not going to be as dedicated as the people really involved with this like M for example.

    There would be several many positions made available including a leader.

    It would be difficult to obtain reports back from third world countries however you could all make their stay a bit more comfortable.

    Its great people care about others but surley not every second post should be on the same subject.

    The Australian people should expect their issues to be the main threads.

  13. PALE, they can expect their issues to be the main thread when the thread is entitled “Australian Issues”

    If I wander into a thread named ‘Seeking Asylum Alone’ – I expect to read about that, not a racist and xenophobic rant which makes me feel ashamed that you are Australian.

  14. Deborah

    What I said was clear.

    The people employed to look after the boat people when they do arrive should be employed from this country.

    When you have contracts from USA staff its hard to make them accountable.

    That is a practicle thing in which we can all support to help these people.

    I dont hear you coming up with any ideas to improve their conditions.[ Practicle ones that this]

    I am saying what many are saying.

    I honestly beleive if you make every second post about it you will turn people off rather than gain their support.

    People are very concerned about many issues especially at the moment.

    If you are trying to get your message across to the public it might be an idea not to be personally offensive to others.
    It normally has the opposite effect to what you hope to acheive.

    if you would care to comment about a change in the contracts to care for these people that would be welcome.
    Otherwise please dont bother to read my comments or address me.

Comments are closed.