Suffering continues 5 years later

There is some focus this week on October 19th being the fifth anniversary of the sinking of the SIEV X, which is also an appropriate time to recall the life of Amal Basry, a survivor of that tragedy.

There have been a few other five year anniversaries worth noting. Today, October 17th, was the date when the Australian government first implemented the ultimate fantasy of the Hansonites – towing the refugee boats back out to sea. This article from last June by Arnold Zable tells the story. It is worth noting that some of the 238 Afghan asylum seekers fleeing the Taliban who were crammed on that boat – SIEV 5 – that was towed back to Indonesia are still in camps on Lombok in Indonesia, five years later. That includes a family with two young children who have many direct relatives here in Australia desperate to reunite with them and totally prepared (and able) to cover their costs.

Another anniversary I failed to mention was September 26th, which was the date when 7 different pieces of legislation were guillotined through the Senate by both major parties in one hit, implementing a range of draconian amendments to the Migration Act. The Bills included some that had been categorically rejected by Labor for some time which they caved in on in the face of the post-Tampa/Sept 11 firestorm, plus one that was passed despite still being in the early stages of examination by a Senate Committee, plus others that had not been examined at all. It was not surprising that when a Committee finally examined legislation dealing with the ‘Pacific Solution’ earlier this year, it recognised the serious legal flaws and recommended rejection.

This also emphasises why it is a courageous and praiseworthy move for the ALP shadow minister, Tony Burke, to state that Temporary Protection Visas should be scrapped (although their support for that stems back to November 1999, not 2001). The objective facts indisputably back up his reasoning, but it is always a risk in politics to change your position – let alone on one where the government has a long record of dishonest fear-mongering.

PS (for the seriously anniversary keen, October 15th 1997 was the date of Cheryl Kernot joining the Labor party, and October 16th 1997 was when the Jupiter II from Lost in Space launched from Earth)

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  1. There was a referendum in Switzerland recently on the issue of abuse of the asylum system by fraudulent asylum seekers. Seventy per cent of the electorate was in favour of the government taking measures to tighten the asylum system. Democracy requires that the Swiss government acts in accordance with the wishes of the majority of the Swiss electorate. Democracy also requires that the Australian government acts in accordance with the wishes of the majority of the Australian electorate.

  2. sounds fine Franklin. Australia doesn’t have any problem with fraudulent asylum seekers, and we didn’t in 2001 either. The situation in Europe was and is quite different, for a number of reasons.

    At least if we did have a real referendum here, there would be some prospect that the official ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ cases would have to be based on facts, arther than false assertions, which is what the government has relied on quite heavily in this area – and continues to do so.

  3. As an ALP member I’m pleased about Tony Burke announcing his opposition to the existence of TPVs. However I think there has been a general neglect of the role of Labor 4 Refugees in helping to change Labor’s policy.
    Since 2001 when Labor 4 Refugees was formed, the ALP policy on refugees has significantly improved and has been done in a cross-factional manner. I hope their good work continues and it has served as a model for pushing progresive change on queer and environmental issues within the ALP and hopefully many other areas to come.

  4. thought so no one can answer my question
    its like this if i decide to run across the road against the red light and get run over who,s to blame.
    although it was a greate tragedy for the ppl involved at some point they must take responsobility for there actions.

  5. red crab

    I’m not sure it’s terribly valid to say that victims of persecution are responsible for the consequences of trying to flee that persecution, but I suppose one could try to make the case – it could set a bit of a dangerous ethical precedent if one does though.

    there’s a new case study that’s just been developed for Year 11 history students which posits a range of straight forward questions about the Siev X incident, similar to the one you asked, although less loaded.

    To the Howard government and their partisan cheersquad, asking any questions about the Siev X equates to promoting postmodern left wing conspiracy theories (guess that must be you too then red crab ;-)

    Unfortunately, such an approach makes rational discussion about the incident almost impossible (which coincidentally suits the government just fine)

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