The lesser of two evils

22 Aug

What’s worse, temporary protection visas or indefinite mandatory detention?

Today the Immigration Minister faced the Australian Human a Rights Commission as part of their inquiry into children in detention. He pointed out that there were no children in detention in 2007 when Labor came to power and 8469 arrived while they were in power. Since he became minister, he has released 537 from detention. He said that no-one in his government wanted to see kids in detention.

The minister also called into question why the inquiry was launched now and not during the previous government, stating that he was trying to clean up the mess left by Labor. 

One of the other thing he promised was that he still wants to use Temporary Protection Visas to get people out of detention.

Critics will point to the devastating effects that TPVs have on a person’ mental health. The uncertainty that comes from not knowing if you’ll be returned to the country you fled (for fear of your life) means people can’t feel safe enough to work through the trauma they’ve experiences. (Remember, TPVs are granted to people who are found to be refugees – who have a well-founded fear of persecution and can’t return to their home country safely).

Of course, that begs the question – would people be satisfied with temporary protection visas instead of detention? Clearly, as the Human rights inquiry has heard, detention causes horrific mental illness. Maybe it would actually be better for the opposition and cross-bench parties to support the reintroduction of TPVs because they’re the lesser of two evils.

Part of me thinks they should. Not only because it might provide better (if not the best) conditions for people and partly because incremental changes like this help to keep things moving. Perhaps they could agree to pass it on the condition that the Manus, Nauru and Christmas Island detention centres are closed within, say, 12 months. Then they can move on to fighting for the next steps.

But the other part of me says no. Not all political calculations have to be made by weighing up two options. Usually a third way exists.

In this case, I believe it does. Now that the boats have stopped, why not begin systematically releasing people from detention and, for those who are found to be refugees, settle then in Australia on permanent visas? Draw a line in the sand and say, “we’ve come so far from labour days, now we’re going to make progress towards a much more sensible system.”

I don’t believe this has to be about the lesser of two evils, I believe we are smart enough to come up with a third way.

One Response to “The lesser of two evils”

  1. Marilyn August 24, 2014 at 6:51 am #

    The law today says that anyone who is a refugee must be granted permanent protection and Morrison cannot make them Tpv’s retrospectively.

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