The 21st century sees many nations looking for ways to punish, isolate and deter refugees (while often contributing to the reasons these people are fleeing in the first place through wars and occupations).
I recently published a major investigation in US magazine The Nation on how Australia is inspiring the EU and others over its draconian refugee policies.
NPR in the US has featured this reporting in a story written by Isabella Alexander:
Key parts of Europe’s new plans have a controversial precedent — in Australia.
Antony Loewenstein, a reporter who has spent the past several years investigating Europe’s move toward externalized border controls, revealed in June that officials from individual European countries and the EU had secretly met with Australian officials about their refugee policies.
As part of a complex system established by the Australian government in 2001, migrants and refugees who were imprisoned in privatized detention centers on the Australian mainland were increasingly sent to small Pacific islands that border the country — Manus in Papua New Guinea and the nation of Nauru.
Although access to these centers has been tightly controlled, reactions from the international community have grown louder as news from the inside slowly trickles out — stories of routine abuse, rape and death from beatings or suicide. Australia, which campaigned for three years to gain a seat at the United Nations Human Rights Council, received a scathing report from the council during its first week in session in 2017. In a 20-page exposé, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, detailed a system of abuse designed to punish and use migrants as an example to deter future ones.
“It is not because [the refugees] are bad people. It is because in order to stop people smugglers we [have] to deprive them of the product,” Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in a phone call with President Trump in 2017, according to a transcript in The Washington Post. The product he was referring to is their basic right to seek asylum.
According to Loewenstein’s reporting, European officials were looking to adopt a similar practice.
If Australia, a democratic nation signatory to international human rights conventions, has successfully outsourced its processing centers with no concrete outside intervention, what is to stop Europe, which receives significantly more migrants, from doing so?
European leaders have an opportunity to learn from Australia’s human rights failings and avoid the potentially catastrophic consequences of establishing similar processing centers outside of the bloc in North Africa.
Read the whole piece.