Large parts of Australia are under water as I write and many country communities have been almost wiped out by the worst floods in fifty years or more. The spiritual and economic damage is almost beyond estimate. However generous Australians might be, resources of aid have limits. Millions have already been donated to a relief fund. (almost $20 million to date). Its really though just a drop in the bucket compared to the estimates of damage that range well into the billions.
Meanwhile, the federal Australian government yesterday announced changes to the asylum seeker legal processes that will add millions to the cost of processing boat people. For anyone not familiar with how the asylum seeker process works, here’s a brief summary.
Asylum seeker Ali gets on a boat with his family and travels to Australia. The boat is intercepted and Ali and family end up held in a detention centre. There Ali is initially assessed and he goes in one of two directions. If he meets internationally designed guidelines, he is accepted as an Asylum seeker and granted a visa. If not, he gets sent home. Ha ha. That a joke of course. In fact that is what the new regulations address. Previously, Ali had one right of appeal to a body called the “Independent Merits Review. If Ali failed there he was sent back to where he came from. The Gillard Government has extended the appeals process. Ali now has access to the full Australian judicial system.
Ali now has four appeal routes. If he misses out at the Independent Merits Review, he can go on to the Federal Magistrates Court, from there to the Federal Appeals Court, and from there to the High Court.
An opposition study last year showed that the average asylum seeker cost Australian taxpayers $82000 to process. Meaning it takes the taxes of nearly seven average wage earners on $62,000 a year to cover the cost of one detainee. What will the changes add to this cost? Well there’s 1400 ready to be processed right now and if they appeal, they’ll most likely do so under legal aid. What do you think this will add to the cost readers? I’d say probably about a half to one million dollars.
It doesn’t end there of course. There are all the other costs associated with running various government services such as interceptor ships, aerial and sea surveillance, transport of the aslyum seekers and boat crews. Funding their applications for family re-unification processes.
Non English speaking 29-year-old Iraqi refugee Wesam al-Khaledi was granted a protection visa last July. He presently lives in Sydney on $230 a week in dole payments but has also applied for his wife and two children to be granted protection in Australia in August.
“They are still not here yet and I say ‘Why, why is it taking so long?’ . . . I can’t sleep, I am so depressed without them,” he said. “There must be more transparency in the work of the Immigration Department. There also must be a clear time-frame….because it is not fair for them to treat us the way they have. The government must fix this properly.”
I agree Wesam. The government must indeed fix this properly. I say that Australia immediately withdraws from any international agreements mandating participation in the asylum seeking system on the grounds that the floods make it unaffordable. The whole shonky system, that is in reality a magnet attracting people like Wesam to Australia, should be shut down. Any boat people arriving should be immediately transported by sea or air back to their country of origin. We just cannot afford any more of this lunacy.
I wonder how much Wesam has donated to flood relief.