Dear Australia, from where I’m standing, your immigration policy looks like it’s walking upside down
Australia’s controversial refugee policy is based on the premise that off-shore detention centres will dissuade refugees from coming. That’s not how desperation works.
The Government of Australia deals with refugees by imprisoning them in offshore detention facilities until immigration authorities either grant a visa or repatriate them. A hard-line immigration policy that has been called “inhuman” by many rights associations, and which also costs a lot of money. In the past three years, Australia has spent $9.2 billion on its offshore detention facilities on Nauru and Papua New Guinea, according to a report by Save the Children and UNICEF. That’s $1570 per day and per detainee — enough to comfortably house the asylum-seekers in five-star hotels, whilst still paying them a healthy salary. The logic behind it is that Offshore detention centres dissuade migrants from coming, ultimately saving money. Except asylum-seekers haven’t been dissuaded yet.
I live in Paris, where refugees aren’t numbers on a piece of paper but very real human beings living in camps on our streets. Over the past months, I’ve had many occasions to talk to them about their lives here, and what they left behind, and one thing became very apparent: they’re not chasing a dream, they are fleeing a nightmare. A nightmare they will flee at any cost.
I met Mahmoud this weekend outside his tent next to a canal in the north of Paris. Dozens of refugees have set up a makeshift camp here, and they have little protection from the murky sky and September drizzle. Mahmoud tells me he is from Darfur in South Soudan, and that he left his country after losing his entire family. “Nothing was left for me there but fear and death,” he told me in broken French. The journey wasn’t easy, he added. He’d taken boats, trains, cramped vans and buses, and paid thousands of euros to reach Paris. A long way to come to live in a tent in the street, even if he does have a far off view of the Eiffel tower.
Refugees will come, whatever obstacles they have to face, because the other option is death or persecution. 70% of those in the…