Manus Island or Menaced Island? Is there a better solution?

Contributed article by Jay Nicolevski

Recent events at the Manus Island detention centre should have all Australians asking questions about the Abbott Government’s “tough” policies on the people we may as well refer to, charitably, as “asylum seekers”.

As we all know, someone was killed and many more injured in the riot that struck Manus Island last week in the culmination of weeks of protests and escape attempts. This is generally supposed to reflect poorly on the Coalition’s policy, and so it does, but not in the way refugee activists would like us to think.

No one is saying Australian personnel on Manus Island are to blame. Those causing problems, depending on whom you consult, are either the detainees or PNG locals.

And yet this is a problem for Australians, because our taxes are funding this dysfunctional archipelago of offshore processing centres. Why? No one seems to know for sure. Reasons are vague but generally revolve around the concept of deterrence.

“Having a system where it is known that even if you are not a genuine refugee Australia will find it very difficult to return you, is to invite people to circumvent our skilled and family migration programs,” wrote the ALP’s Chris Bowen in the SMH, in defence of offshore processing.[1] And He’s right, so far as he goes.

But if the point of the policy is indeed deterrence, then we are indeed treating asylum seekers as criminals. Waleed Aly is not slow to press the point: “whatever these people are fleeing, whatever circumstance makes them think they’d be better off chancing death on boats hardly worthy of that description, we must offer them something worse. That something is Papua New Guinea.” [2]

So, he argues, we really have no right to question anyone’s right to come here without a passport; if they say they are fleeing persecution, they are.

And if they are, then we have to let them stay. Period.

It is just this assumption that I believe we need to question. The world is full of genuine refugees because the world is full of despotisms, failed states, ethnic and religious conflict, female genital mutilation, etc. What is remarkable is that “Nine governments currently host the bulk of the refugees who are annually resettled in new countries”[3], and these countries are: United States, Canada, Australia, Sweden, Norway, Finland, New Zealand, Denmark, and The Netherlands.

Other countries, as leftist obfuscators like to point out, may actually host more refugees, but this is readily explained by their geographical proximity to refugees’ countries of origin. Jordan, for example, is the number-one country on that list because of all the Palestinians living there since 1948.

But what do the countries on the list have in common? The answer is difficult to put in politically correct language. Some are English speaking; some are in Europe, but the essential thing to notice is that all are at least one or the other.

There is nothing strange about Jordan’s refugee intake: Palestinians are ethnically similar to Jordanians, being neighbours and fellow Muslims and Arabs. The more difficult question is why Australia, down here at the bottom of the world, is on the UN list of countries pouring the most resources into resettlement.

The conclusion is unavoidable: any asylum seeker who has got to Australia by leaky boat has passed by or through plenty of suitable destinations on their way to our appealing economy — Ahem, country.

The list of countries having signed the 1951 Convention and the 1967 protocol, giving them the same responsibilities for the world’s refugee problem as Australia, is long. A conspicuous absence, however, is Indonesia.

As the Jakarta Post reported on January 10 this year “The practice of people smuggling is only possible because of corruption involving the smugglers and the authorities.” [4] So what are we doing to curb this problem? Is our government taking theirs to task about the laxity of their coastguard? Or are they instead apologising for incursions into Indonesian waters that are only necessary because Indonesia’s officials abet criminals who routinely violate Australian sovereignty?

The answer to these questions say something about us, and so does the fact that, despite the continuous insult to our sovereignty and the strain on our public finances, even the supposedly heartless Liberal Party feel the necessity of justifying its weak defence of our borders in the following terms:

“More than 14,500 desperate people have been denied a place under our humanitarian programme because of the influx of asylum seekers arriving by boat.”[5]

I say let India take the Tamil refugees; let Iran take Iraqi Shia, and let Indonesia take the overflow — or take it up with the asylum seekers’ countries of origin. But don’t I know anything? Those countries aren’t bound by international law, not having signed the relevant documents. That means they can do what they want and leave us to clean up the mess. Funny, I thought one of the hallmarks of a good legal system was that it applies to one and all.

That will stop the boats at their source in the Northern Hemisphere, stopping the problems of the world’s most dysfunctional societies, including Papua New Guinea, from becoming ours.

To take the irony a little further, while we in Australia have the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Act to prevent anyone being treated differently because of their race or country of origin (and to criminalise free speech about protected groups), we are signatories to a piece of international legislation that gives foreign nationals rights in our country that we wouldn’t have in theirs.

[1] “Manus Island riots: PNG police report finds officers and locals not responsible for asylum seeker death”, ABC News, 26 February 2014 (Karen Barlow & ABC staff)
Manus Island riot investigation to examine Labor’s role in setting up centre”, The Australian, 24 February 2014
Asylum seekers riot on Manus Island, but Scott Morrison denies detainees told they would not be resettled in PNG”, The Sydney Morning Herald, 16 February 2014 (Goya Dmytryshchak)
Riot flared as Manus Island refugees realised ‘lies were told’”, The Sydney Morning Herald, 26 February 2014 (David Wroe, Sarah Whyte and Michael Gordon)
Candlelight vigils held for slain asylum seeker Reza Berati who died on Manus Island”, ABC News, 24 February 2014
Iranian asylum seeker killed on Manus Island named Reza Barati”, The Age, 21 February 2014 (Judith Ireland)
[2] “Humane reasons for processing asylum seekers offshore”, The Sydney Morning Herald, 17 September 2011 (Chris Bowen)
[3] “The whole point of detention for asylum seekers is horror, whether it is acknowledged or not”, The Sydney Morning Herald, 21 February 2014 (Waleed Aly)
[4] “Emerging Resettlement Countries: New Doors Open”, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
[5] “Editorial: Testing commitment”, The Jakarta Post, 10 January 2014
[6] “Mayo candidates’ say on asylum seekers”, The Times (Victor Harbor), 5 September 2013


  1. Just wanted to say, to come to Australia without a valid passport is illegal.
    Flying half way around the world to come to Down Under via Indonesia & claiming to
    be “asylum seekers” is illegal. When you pass countries on your trip who have already
    signed the Refugee Convention & not gone there. You are really “Selective Seekers”
    wanting to exchange a Third World life to a First World Country, that is called “economic
    seekers”. Australia signed the Refugee Convention in 1951, before Paolo was breed.
    Paolo, Blood, Sweat & Tears Built This Country! Not a Socialist Utopia to come to & live
    off the Australian people. “Socialists eventually run out of others people money”.
    My Family blame “Santamaria” who founded the Democratic Labour Party, he was a
    big player in getting Menzies to sign this Refugee Convention in 1951, without the consent
    of the Australian people. He always pretended to be against Communism but he really
    was very much “All Roads Lead to the Club Of Rome”. This man latched on to Pauline
    Hanson when she first started, so her party would never go anywhere. Santamaria had
    a lot to answer for! He has passed away & people all over Australia are talking about
    how he sent our gorgeous boys off to Vietnam without sending himself or any of his

  2. In Long Bay prison there are gun turrets at each corner and if any inmates try to escape they are shot, so what is the fuss, if an Australian citizen is shot trying to escape knowbody would bat an eyelid. Give me a break.

  3. Its notable that Japan,South Korea,China and Thailand are absent from the list of countries that take refugees.
    Those countries that ARE listed do have several things in common- white,Christian,stable and developed.
    As for Indonesia grizzling about our navy ‘breaching’ their borders,what do they call what they’re doing to us? The boats were crewed by Indonesians,owned by Indonesians and launched from Indonesia as corrupt officials turned a blind eye. Something the Indonesian government dosn’t talk about…..
    Of course Asian countries support multiculturism……in the West!

    • The g Factor says

      In actual fact Japan does take a limited number of refugees (about 2 dozen a year) under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, and while China and Thailand are not signatories to the convention, they do sometimes have refugees entering such as Karen people from Burma.
      What Australia should do is withdraw from the convention, then anyone illegally entering this country, whether they claim to be refugees or not, could be sent back to where they came from. We could of course still take in refugees but it would be on our own terms and there would be no queue jumping.

      • Japan-the goody two shoes of Asia-has a high standard of living,high class health care,minimal poverty,stable government and is peaceful. Its the Germany of Asia so to speak.
        That someone hasn’t jumped on them about their lack of participation in helping with this global problem baffles me. If they offered to help out,some burden would be lifted from the West…….who’ve done more than their fair share.
        Refugees will always exist,but they can’t keep being absorbed by the same countries year after year. We need something back.

        Two dozen a year……..words fail me!!

  4. Quote “But if the point of the policy is indeed deterrence, then we are indeed treating asylum seekers as criminals”
    Entering Australia without permission is not considered illegal?
    If one attempts to do something illegal, is that person not a criminal?

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