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Onshore processing and possible “civil unrest” - DIAC 09-10-2011 07:29

According to the latest media reports (Maybe you should read the news article I’m referring to before you read the rest of this.), Head of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), Andrew Metcalfe, is said to advise the government in the wake of the High Court blocking the “Malaysia solution” - Would an increase in the number of asylum seekers being processed on the Australian mainland really lead to London and Paris stye rioting on the streets? Visibly, there is no proof that onshore processing will contribute to anything additional to current social unrest. The issue is how politicians and opinion leaders present the refugee present, and whether they increase local anxiety. All the experience in Australia has been that it is opinion leaders who intensify these issues. Not that people don’t feel low levels of anxiety about “difference”, but the focusing of that anxiety on particular groups as points of hatred or intolerance really depends very much on the way public and political opinion leaders actually work. In 2006 Africans were said to be “impossible to assimilate”, targeted by Immigration minister Andrews, which caused a significant drop in public statements of hostility from leading political figures. As it turns out African refugees have proven to be generally law abiding and hard working. Communities won’t react in such negative and hostile ways if there is support for refuse settlement, and proper services and care and attention to integrating people on arrival. We have seen situations where there has been bi-partisan support of new arrivals, for instance the Bosnian refugees during the Kosovo crisis - We got fantastic bipartisan support for their presence once the decision was made to take them in and there were no problems until the very end when some of the refugees wanted to stay and contraversive politicians and shock jocks got angry with them. If they are interpreted negatively, then people will pick up on that. If they are interpreted positively, people take it in a much less hostile way. The critical issue is getting them in and having some on shore community-based determination, so they can get into the community where they become part of the school population and part of the community and begin actively contributing. Population management in Australia is about power, it is about responsibility, it is about contribution - always have been and will be political. It is more problematic if nobody takes any notice and people are locked away in warehouses to rot because nobody needs to have a concern about what is happening to them; that’s the Nauru solution. Remarkably, it is possible that we are now reaching a critical point where we might actually be able to break the Gordian knot and have an evidence-based rational policy which actually integrates that small part of our annual flow of population, whom we currently so traumatize and destroy that some become a chronic burden on Australia’s mental health services for the rest of their lives. There is nothing humane about that, nothing ration, and nothing economically sane.

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