It all has a hurried sense to it. With the offshore detention system running into troubles, the Australian government has had to find ways to get rid of the human residents it has promised never to settle in the country. This highly dubious policy, far more than anything Donald Trump could ever wish for, entrenches a further wall of imperviousness to refugee claims from those travelling by boat to Australia.
Max Chalmers provides a neat survey of the quagmire of cruelty that has unfolded over the years.
Three years after the initiation of Operation Sovereign Borders, four years after Australia recommended the transfer of refugees to Nauru, and 15 years after John Howard ground people rescued by the Tampa into political capital, Australia’s refugee policy remains a mess of contradictions.
This pickle has found form in what has been deemed a “one off” deal with the United States. Desperate to move refugees off the Manus Island facility after the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea gave it a legal drubbing, officials in Canberra were keen to find a country – almost any other country – to take them.
The Obama administration has provided a helping hand, when it might have done better telling its small, insular ally that they would be far better actually taking the refugees themselves. But the modern economy of refugee swamps, resettlement and movement is specifically designed to evade the now less than holy United Nations Refugee Convention.