Immigration Minister Peter Dutton – exporting our problems far away.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton – exporting our problems far away. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
If an obscure and impoverished survivor of the Soviet Union is seriously on a list of possible places in which to dump those who sought Australia's help, our perverse obsession with border protection has reached peak farce.
Kyrgyzstan is the land-locked country so roundly criticised for its human rights abuses that its election last week to the United Nation's Human Rights Council further damages its credibility, if that's possible given Russia and Saudi Arabia are members.
Kyrgyzstan is facing "endemic corruption, poor inter-ethnic relations, and terrorism", according to the CIA.
Kyrgyzstan is facing "endemic corruption, poor inter-ethnic relations, and terrorism", according to the CIA. Photo: Shutterstock
It's a place about which the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade tells Australians: "exercise a high degree of caution ... because of the potential for civil unrest, the threat of terrorism and high levels of crime".
It's a place the CIA says faces "endemic corruption, poor inter-ethnic relations, and terrorism". Even its parliamentary democracy is hardly performing as it should, now set to pass a draconian anti-gay bill making it a crime to "promote" any "non-traditional" sexuality.
It's a country more than 7000 kilometres from Sydney, with a relationship so close to Australia that neither country has an embassy in the other and last financial year, Australia sold it just $2.3 million of merchandise, mainly machines and butter, and bought just $262,000, mainly essential oils. We sold more stuff to Rwanda.
Illustration: Matt Golding.
Illustration: Matt Golding.
That may soon change, according to a report in The Weekend Australian, as it is the only country identified as "a potential solution for refugee resettlement". "Other former Soviet bloc countries are also understood to have been selected, along with some in Africa and South America, but no deals have yet been struck," it said.
The government neither confirmed nor denied the report, but given the sorry history of Manus Island, Nauru and Cambodia, we cannot assume it is the lunatic thought-bubble floated in a weekend newspaper that it should be.
Future agreements with dubious countries in central Asia, Africa and South America raise the prospect of Australia turning its nascent regional export industry – that of genuine refugees – into a global one.
Our aim: to force those we refuse to help to all continents but our own. We will send them to lands familiar to them by their danger, with poverty too. And we'll pay the exorbitant cost; $55 million went to Cambodia, for taking four refugees.
Exporting problems is now the Australian way. We push away anyone scared enough to flee here by boat. We seem to have paid people smugglers to take some back.
We applaud ourselves for the drop in drownings of those seeking asylum, and ignore the psychological damage we do to men, women and 205 children detained for committing no crime, including 1565 who languish in two hell-holes in subservient troubled states.
We get rid of "permanent" residents who do commit crime or otherwise fail the character test, no matter how long they have lived here, or at what age they came, and without care as to reason why the receiving country should have to shoulder the burden of rehabilitating those who turned to crime in Australia.
The Sunday Telegraph proudly carried a double-reminder this weekend from the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, who continues to provide hope to all those who wish to rise well above their ability. According to one story, 33 paedophiles have been deported; the next said he's trying to do the same to bikies before they become citizens (difficult, you would think, given the good character requirement).
Good luck to the countries trying to keep their children safe from sex offenders without the benefit of court-imposed supervision. No worry that the president of the Rebels, Alex Vella, lived in Australia for 47 years – Malta gets that Australian-made prize to deal with.
Even when we evict Tony Abbott from the prime minister's office, foreigners have to suffer. In last week's audition to be the hardest conservative of them all, he harangued European leaders into being harsher to "prevent a tide of humanity surging through Europe and quite possibly changing it forever".
Changing it, how? If Abbott meant minarets in every city and a smaller proportion of white faces on the streets, that ship has long sailed, there and here.
And if change is to be avoided, it comes to Australia by air and with visas issued by the government Abbott used to lead: there were 190,000 places in Australia's migrant intake last financial year. There were just 13,750 humanitarian spots.
Australia could be an example in strength through diversity. Some problems, yes; change to be feared, no. Instead, we are leading the way in degrading the post-war refugee system, and in having someone else deal with our problems.
Tim Dick is a Sydney lawyer. Twitter: dick_tim