The issue of asylum seekers has again made its way onto the political agenda with several boats being intercepted in Australian waters during April. Several other groups of asylum seekers, who were planning to come to Australia, were also reportedly prevented from leaving Indonesia.
Tragically one of the boats exploded while under naval escort to Christmas Island, killing at least five people and injuring dozens more. This led the Liberal opposition and the capitalist media to immediately launch a scare campaign making allegations that the refugees had deliberately set their vessel on fire.
There were also allegations that the Labor Government’s minor changes to the immigration laws were responsible for encouraging ‘people smuggling’. The reality is that Rudd’s changes to the previous Howard government’s legislation have left most of the draconian aspects of the legislation firmly in place.
To this day refugees are still subject to mandatory detention and off-shore processing. Several islands are still excised from the migration zone and naval patrols of the coast continue.
The Liberal opposition, led by Malcolm Turnbull, know only to well that the Labor Party are staunch supporters of repressive measures against refugees. After all it was the Keating Labor Government that introduced mandatory detention in the first place.
The Liberals have launched the scare campaign in a desperate attempt to gain some ground against Labor as they trail badly in the polls. Turnbull is happy to vilify refugees trying to position himself as the ‘hard man’ against ‘queue jumpers’ and ‘illegals’ in a time of economic crisis.
Rudd has insisted that the recent surge in boats intercepted off northern Australia is due to “global influences” rather than his policies. This is mostly true, for example the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has reported a big increase in worldwide asylum applications during the past year. The situation for people living in places like Afghanistan, Iraq and Sri Lanka is getting worse by the day.
The problem is that in many of these troubled areas Rudd is either contributing to the problems or is doing nothing to intervene. The illegal occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq are forcing people into poverty and the persecution of minority groups is rife. Australian troops remain in both of these countries and support the US military adventures that regularly kill innocent civilians.
For all the talk about ‘queue jumpers’ it turns out there is actually no queue for Afghans who are being persecuted. The Australian Government refuses to establish a proper embassy in Afghanistan while at the same time it has plenty of money to pay for the 1100 troops on the ground.
In Sri Lanka, the government which is supported by Rudd is waging a war against Tamil people in the north and the east of the country. Thousands of people have been murdered, hundreds have ‘disappeared’ and many thousands more have been displaced. Rudd has done nothing to stop this slaughter despite Tamil protesters camping outside his Sydney house.
None of the major parties have any solutions to the problems that lead to people fleeing their homelands. This is because it is the capitalist system, which they support, that is responsible. A system based on profit before need cannot solve the problems of war, poverty and repression.
While the capitalist system remains, and it plunges further into crisis, more and more people will need to seek asylum. The only way to eliminate these problems is to eliminate the system that creates them. We need to create a socialist society based on peace and prosperity so we can provide for all.