MARILYN SHEPHERD | Islands Business | Extracts
PAPUA NEW GUINEA AND NAURU are being bullied to assist Australia to traffic humans by force out of Australia on the pretext of stopping people smuggling—a con invented by former Minister for Immigration Philip Ruddock in 1999 and agreed to by former Shadow Minister Con Sciaccia and which has continued to this day.
Before 1999, there was no offence under Australian law called “people smuggling”. In 1992, the refugee convention had been enshrined into the Australian Migration Act granting anyone the right to enter or stay in Australia without visas and claiming asylum. At the same time, the parliament invented refugee detention to avoid having to assess the claims of a few hundred Cambodians.
In 1999, when just 920 Afghan and Iraqi refugees arrived by sea after fleeing genocide and torture by the Taliban and the Saddam Hussein regime, Ruddock and the Australian parliament passed laws to jail anyone who assisted refugees, even though this was not then and is not now a crime.
By 2000, the UN had become alarmed at Australia over not only the prisons for refugees but the punishment of those who assisted them. With consultations, the UN wrote two protocols which offer greater protection for refugees and asylum seekers, migrants and trafficked sex slaves.
I am not accusing Papua New Guinea or Nauru of exploiting the refugees trafficked to their nations. But both governments certainly appear to gain a good deal of money, employment and benefits in exchange for human beings.
What both nations need to be aware of is the cost to their nations of claims for compensation for arbitrary and illegal imprisonment, poor living conditions, and enabling the punishment of innocent men, women and children with agreements not ratified by any law.
Three other countries have tried such agreements—Britain, Italy and Kenya. In Britain’s case, the court ruled that sending refugees by force to Greece or any EU state with lesser living standards was illegal; in Italy’s case, they ruled it was illegal to set up prisons in Libya due to human rights violations by Italy; and in Kenya, it was ruled that the government could not even send refugees from urban areas in Kenya to refugee camps.
When refugees trafficked to Manus Island and Nauru seek to claim compensation against the governments of those countries, the refugees will win as they have in Australia. Prime Minister Peter O’Neill of Papua New Guinea should desist in his dealings with Australia now and force Australia to live up to her international obligations and Australian law or face the same problems Australia has.
Australia is conning its neighbours into breaking the law under the guise of stopping the smuggling of refugees to Australia but it is not smuggling because they still have to arrive in Australia.