Yesterday I received a call out of the blue from a producer in Moscow asking if I’d like to be interviewed by The Voice of Russia about Australia’s refugee policies. It was conducted live. Let nobody say that Australia’s ever-worsening cruelty isn’t being noticed by the world:
A boat carrying Asian refugees to Australia has sunk in bad weather off Indonesia’s Java Island with the known loss of 4 lives. One hundred and 57 people have been rescued, and it is not immediately clear how many are missing. Reports say several dozen people are unaccounted for. The disaster added bitterness to Australia’s domestic debate on the country’s asylum policy. The Voice of Russia asked Antony Loewenstein, an independent Sydney-based journalist and author, about his opinion on the controversial policy and whether Australia’s ‘refugee outsourcing’ is somehow connected to the upcoming November elections.
Please name the countries that supply asylum seekers to Australia.
One of the great myths about this issue, and this issue has been relevant to Australia for at least 1.5 decades, well before 9/11 2001. It is the argument that is made by people that most refugees that are coming are potential terrorists or they are not real refugees and legal examples in Australia show that after 90% of refugees who are coming by boat are refugees, legitimate refugees fearing persecution. Where they are coming from – Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, nations that have serious human rights abuses, Iraq etc.
So, to answer you question, the vast majority has been shown to be refugees and what Australia is doing at the moment in the last few weeks, but frankly has been doing in various ways for at least 15 years now, is to outsource its refugee policy to other countries in the Pacific that are poor countries, that obviously have little choice but to say yes because they are desperate for the money and also to corporations, often foreign corporations that are making a lot of money on more boats that arrive because they government is paying them to manage those refugees in very oppressive detention centers.
You have elections coming up in November. Does the fact that there is this hype going on about this right now has anything to do with the elections?
Absolutely. The election is not set yet, so it is going to be any time between now and November but in short there is no doubt the both major sides of the politics are using refugees as a way to show they are tough on asylum seekers but the sad reality is that people’s humanity and the lives of the people are rarely heard because it is very hard for journalists such as myself to get access to these refugee centers in Australia or off-shore.
So, the bottom-line is Australia treats refugees with contempt and I think the world is outraged but it explains why you are interviewing me now on that issue which actually is making Australia seen like a racist country which frankly it embarrasses me to say that it seems like it is.