Tag Archives: Australia

Is it safe in Australia’s offshore detention centres?

27 Apr

Today, the ABC will air a program (on 4 Corners) looking at the Manus Island riots which tragically claimed the life of a young asylum seeker, Reza Berati.

Following Reza’s death, people took to the streets in cities and towns around Australia to protest the Government’s treatment of asylum seekers, but especially to express concern about the terrible offshore processing policy.

In my view, this protest, unlike any other, marked a shift in public opinion on the issue of how to handle asylum seekers who arrive by boat. Reza’s death, while tragic, was also the death we needed to have. It helped to convince a group of people who were previously on the fence that we need to question whether we really are comfortable with this policy. Some of those people will ultimately decide they’re not. It didn’t convert any existing protesters, but it did create a new group of opponents.

The ABC interviewed Immigration Minister Scott Morrison for the 4 Corners program and the news this morning included a story about how he had changed his language. They said that previously he had given a guarantee that asylum seekers in offshore processing centres would be safe if they didn’t get involved in violent riots. Now, he was no longer giving that guarantee, but rather stating that that safety was only an ‘aspiration’.

I think the story is a little unfair on Scott Morrison. Far be it from me to defend this government, but let’s be practical for a second… Continue reading

Information flows

22 Sep


The newly elected Australian Government have come under fire recently about their decision not to release information about new boat arrivals. From what I can tell, they plan to stop the publication of regular data about the numbers, nationalities and family breakdowns of the boats that arrive.

The newly ousted former government (now opposition), the media, and many commentators and advocates are up in arms about it.

I’m not.

Before you get upset at me, don’t worry, I’m not a fan of any of the new governments asylum seeker policies. They’re a tragedy!! But the decision not to publish this info doesn’t have me all that concerned…. And here’s why…

Continue reading

Is there a queue?

15 Jul

seminar on QueueAre boat people queue jumpers? Most people have never really stopped to ask themselves the question. We just assume they are. After all, we know that there are lots of people in the world who sit in refugee camps for decades, even generations. Why are the ones who can afford to get on a board more deserving of a new life in our country than the wholes who can’t?

As with most aspects of the issue of asylum seekers, the truth is not so simple. And, of course, the more complex an issue is, the harder it is to sell to the voters and the more quickly the public stop listening… Continue reading

Passport to freedom?

14 Jul

People smugglers are bastards. Excuse the french but they are. Sure, some of their workers (at the lower end of the operation) might be well-intentioned, but the people who orchstrate the movement of people around the globe, charging tens of thousands of dollars (which their clients usually don’t have) are sick, twisted opportunists with no morals.

passportI’m probably not sounding much like most of the left-leaning, liberal Australian community right now. Most people are quick to blame the government and want to believe that the people smugglers are the saviours, lifting vulnerable people out of situations of despair.

But the reality is, people smugglers are usually involved in all sorts of criminal activities. They have networks of criminal operations which usually involve a range of industries – from drug trafficking to the black market for weapons and, of course, people. Most of them have diversified their business from the more traditional forms of people smuggling (in the sex industry) to include asylum seekers… Continue reading

What can we do about asylum seekers?

1 Jul

(I recently gave a talk about my experiences at Immigration and was asked to write a follow up blogpost. Here it is. This was first posted on the City Bible Forum blog. You can find it here.)

Whenever I speak to people about issues to do with Asylum Seekers, I am always asked the question ‘what should we be doing?’  People who feel strongly about this issue often feel that their response should be action – they want to contribute, to work towards reversing the terrible things that happen.  Evidence of this more broadly is that the Australian people have made it abundantly clear that they are not satisfied with what is considered inaction on the Government’s part. People consider it to be so great a problem that they want governments to come up with solutions (like the Pacific Solution, the Malaysia Solution, etc).

The thing is, there aren’t too many Australians who can stand on remote coastlines in Indonesia and try and talk a person out of getting on a boat. And even if there were people doing that, they probably wouldn’t be successful in many cases. And they probably couldn’t cover the whole coastline. And if they did, chances are the people smugglers would find a new place to launch the boat from.

There is very little that Australians can do in response to this issue. In this way, they rely on Governments to do things on their behalf – which tends to bring us back to the biggest issue in all of this – if we don’t like what the government or the alternative government are proposing, what can we do? Continue reading

‘Not our problem’

1 Jul

(This article first appeared at the Australian Evangelical Alliance’s Centre for Christianity and Society website. You can find it here.)

Abdullah (not his real name) was a young Kurdish boy, about 12 years old.  I remember that day in 2010 when I saw him step off the barge onto the jetty at Flying Fish Cove on Christmas Island, clinging to his mother’s arm. His mother had brought him and his young sister (about 8 years old) to Australia after his father and uncle didn’t return home from a day at the markets.

No-one could get Abdullah to talk. We were all worried about him and it quickly became obvious that he was suffering one of the worst cases of Post-Traumatic Stress that we’d come across. He wouldn’t engage with the mental health team, the children’s activities coordinators, his school teachers or the other Kurdish kids at the detention centre. He had withdrawn into his own world.

As a former youth worker and from my time on missions in Sierra Leone, I had a bit of experience with kids with trauma. I decided to try and break down the barrier and get to know him and his family. Every few days, I would make an effort to seek him out to say hello, crack some jokes and have a quick chat with his mother to see how she was travelling… Continue reading

Public Service professionalism and personal integrity

15 Jun

professionalism charity financeI did a talk recently (which you can watch here) and, at the end, answered a few questions from the audience.  One of the questioners asked whether, given the challenging environment I was in as an Immigration Officer, I was ever tempted to subvert the system, break the rules and do things in a way that I thought would be better than the way they were already being done.

My answer was basically no. But I did go on to explain, and I thought it might be helpful to share that answer in a bit more detail here… Continue reading

Asylum seeker ‘enhanced screenings’ dangerous: former official

10 Jun

Here’s the full text of an article by Hayden Cooper from the ABC – including some quotes by me:

A former Immigration Department official has condemned Australia’s process of so-called “enhanced screening” of asylum seekers as dangerous and says the department felt pressured by the Prime Minister’s office.

Under enhanced screening, asylum seekers can be rejected based on their answers in an initial interview soon after arriving in Australia.

The method has been used to send more than 1,200 asylum seekers straight home, just days after they arrive on boats.

All were Sri Lankans, and the Australian Tamil Congress says some have ended up in prison once they are returned home.

Former Immigration Department official Greg Lake has told the ABC’s 7.30 program he fears legitimate refugees have been rejected.

Mr Lake was the operations manager at the Nauru detention centre earlier this year, and he also held management positions at the Christmas Island and Scherger detention centres, before quitting in April… Continue reading


Asylum Seeker policy on the run

10 Jun

Here’s a video of a talk I did recently about some of my experiences working for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. The sound quality is a bit bad (as is the light), but if you’ve got 25mins or so, you might enjoy it…


Breaking the people smuggler’s business model…

14 May

Breaking the people smuggler’s business model…

Check out this article about whether or not it is even possible for the Australian Government to break the business model of the people smugglers who prey on vulnerable asylum seekers, offering a better life in Australia.


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