Tuesday, 10 May 2011

The last few days, one of the issues making some big news over here is the striking of a deal between Australia and Malaysia concerning asylum seekers.

With Australia being a developed country in a region full of developing countries, they do have a huge problem with asylum seekers. So a few days back the Aussie PM announced a solution.

I kinda miss the familiarity of Adelaide... Of course, I get more familiar with Melbourne as each day passes

Under the arrangement, announced by Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Canberra yesterday, up to 800 people who try to make their way to Australia by boat seeking asylum will instead be sent to Malaysia, and to the back of the processing queue.

In return, Australia will resettle 4000 people from Malaysia who have already received refugee status.

While I'm sure that the deal is not making news back home, it definitely is here. From reading news reports I am of the opinion that there are two main reactions to this. The first, is of criticism of the government for landing such an unfair deal, because this would mean that for every 1 refugee rejected, they have to take in 5 (the Aussie people were hoping for something better, like a 1 to 2 deal). And since our Malaysian high commissioner in Australia said that we want to have to power to select and reject refugees, there are concerns that we'll reject so many that Australia will end up taking all of these refugees anyway.

The second reason, is that apparently asylum seekers in Malaysia are mistreated.

A CROWD of men, women and children waited on the street in front of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees' office in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

The barred gate of the cage-like enclosure was kept locked by a burly guard. The crowd surged forward when it seemed more would be permitted inside the barriers.

Emotions can run high here. In 2004, an asylum-seeker set himself alight at the gates and died of his burns. Stateless, sometimes unemployed and often ill, the dispirited group at the gate was one small illustration of the appalling plight of refugees across Asia.

Rohingya man Abdul Gappoor from Burma belongs to one of the worst-treated minorities in the world, his people harried and oppressed and refused citizenship by even their own nation.
Mr Gappoor has been on the run for years. He and his wife, Zainab, lost two young children to illness in the process. He was arrested in Kuantan in Malaysia in 1992 and since then his life has been an unfolding tragedy.

"If I were deported, I would be imprisoned and killed by Burmese authorities," it said.

For Mr Gappoor, Australia would be a welcome change. "Life would be easier in Australia."

I find it amusing and annoying at the same time that the Australian media is painting our country as a cruel nation who does not care about human rights. I'm not sure about this, but I think these people are not seeking refuge in Malaysia, they're hoping to come to Australia, so for us to even give them a place to stay is already kind, I would argue. After all, this is not Malaysia's problem.

And while I agree that these people should not be beaten or starved, if it is true, that is- Australia isn't exactly guiltless, either.

This is an article about a protest that occurred in a Sydney refugee detention centre:

Negotiations to bring three detainees down from the roof of Sydney's Villawood Detention Centre have failed, as their protest goes into its ninth day.

Human rights' activist Dr Mohamed Al Jabiri said he had gone into the centre on Thursday afternoon to negotiate with authorities on behalf of the detainees, but a compromise could not be reached.

"They were insisting that first of all, these people have to come down from the roof, so I asked them if they can get immunity (from being charged)," Dr Al Jabiri told AAP.

"They said no, we cannot give a promise."

He said it appeared the protesters might be arrested if they came down and there would be no reconsideration of their visas.

And this is another article about another protest at a different detention centre.

Yesterday a small group of detainees were protesting in the grounds of the Christmas Island detention centre as the Immigration Department dealt with the aftermath of a rooftop protest at the centre last week.

Those protesters were on the roof for three days and nights and workers at the medical centre below have since complained of a strong smell of human faeces. 
Plans were under way for a worker to be lifted by crane in a cage to clean the excrement off.
"Appropriate occupational health and safety matters must be considered these are being addressed," a department spokesman said.

The spokesman described yesterday's protest as passive and the centre as "calm, currently".
The men wrote on sheets. One read: "We have been here for 530 days and we have been accepted as refugees for 160 days but until now it's not yet justice. How long do we need to wait for the conclusion of our cases???".

And this was something that happened in March.

Parts of the main Christmas Island detention centre burnt as protests by 250 asylum seekers turned violent last night.

Meanwhile, a 20 year old Afghan man has died overnight in the Scherger centre in Queensland. An immigration spokeswoman said the man was discovered in his bed by Serco staff and could not be revived. Police will investigate the death.

Australian Federal Police have taken over control of the Christmas Island detention centre, an immigration spokesman said.

The protesters had marched within the main detention centre grounds carrying two banners, one reading "Freedom", and then marched back inside the centre and sat down before dispersing about an hour later at 9.35pm, the department spokesman said.

About 280 detainees - not associated with the violence - had to be moved from the North West detention centre to a recreation hall and to Phosphate Hill for their safety during the violence, which lasted until just after midnight.

"Many detainees have moved away from the troublemakers," a department spokesman said.

I guess this is what media distortion that we learn in class is all about. When refugees are mistreated in Australia it is because they were troublemakers, but when it happens in a country like Malaysia (mind you, we don't have the best of reputations here) it is a violation of human rights.

Well, that kinda is like what Australia is doing too... further proof that Australia and America aren't that different? 

I bet nobody told the asylum seeker in Malaysia of his Christmas Island counterparts' ordeal.
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