Australia’s ‘Refugee’ Policy. Neither ‘poisonous’ nor ‘cruel’.

Amnesty international recently released a report condemning the ‘treatment’ of migrants on Nauru. It claims that the present ‘Pacific Solution’ policy is deliberately cruel. The report was supported and praised by Australian journalist Waleed Aly, in a New York Times Op-Ed – found here.

Here is a reply to Waleed Aly and Amnesty International:
Waleed Aly and Amnesty International are wrong. Australia’s ‘refugee policy’ does not remotely ‘amount to torture’.

Point One

The policy is also neither ‘poisonous’ nor a ‘sedative’. It is pragmatic, reasonable and ethically sound.
Here’s why:

    • It is simply not ‘torture’ to provide people with furnished accommodation, education, health services, meals, and financial allowances. This is in societies which are not at war, and have no repressive laws.


    • Migrant family accommodation on the island of Nauru is air-conditioned and equipped with white goods and flat-screen televisions. Single men sleep in permanent tent accommodation, equipped with bunks.
      What part of this ‘amounts to torture’?


    • Furthermore, all migrants get three nutritious meals per day and an allowance to spend as they see fit. No migrants are imprisoned or locked up (if they are law-abiding) and they are free to roam the islands they are on.
      What part of this ‘amounts to torture’?


    • The Australian government has recently funded the building of a new hospital on the island of Nauru, and migrant children are free to go to the local schools. (There are no migrant women and children on Manus Island, part of Papua New Guinea) Even Amnesty International reports that serious medical cases have been allowed to go to Australia for medical treatment.
      What part of this ‘amounts to torture’?


    • Many migrants have started their own businesses on the island of Nauru.
      What part of this ‘amounts to torture’?


    • Furthermore, it is an undeniable truth that the present Australian system saves many innocent lives, especially those of women and children. The policy was relaxed between 2008 and 2013, under a well-meaning Labor government. This resulted in the deaths of at least 1200 people by drowning, including hundreds of children, and babies.
      Which policy is really ‘poisonous’?


    • Waleed Aly deftly pirouettes around this clincher. It is the Achilles heel of all Australian ‘refugee activists’ and ultimately they have no valid counter to it. Aly brushes over it with a quick ‘It is true that the journey is deadly’, then rapidly qualifies this with an oleaginous insinuation that ‘more than 1200’ people ‘stuck in limbo’ is worse.Which is worse? 1200 men, women and children drowned at sea, or 1200 people ‘stuck in limbo’ in a stable environment, safe from war and persecution?


I could rest my case, but there is more.

Aly goes on:
‘…we sacrifice the lives of innocent people to dissuade others from risking theirs.’ (My emphasis)
This has real merits as an ethical standpoint (depending on your definition of ‘sacrifice’). However, the real truth is this, Mr. Aly:

You would sacrifice the lives of innocent people – to persuade countless more to risk theirs.

Neither Waleed Aly, nor Amnesty International, can plausibly deny that a flurry of people-smuggler boats would almost certainly result in more deaths by drowning. In effect, they are both guilty of promoting a policy conducive to mass manslaughter.

If they were to succeed in their crusade to change the present policy, and people were to die as a result, the government should consider legal prosecution.

To dissect and debunk the Amnesty International (AI) report in detail is a surprisingly easy process. Space does not permit this here. Instead; three confronting questions can be asked of the report. followed by some very general answers.

  1. To what extent is the report evidence of emotional blackmail?
  2. To what extent is the report racist against the Nauruan people?
  3. To what extent is self-harming and mental illness ‘torture’?
  4. The AI report relies almost totally on the testimony of refugees, asylum-seekers and ‘refugee’ activists.

The migrants involved have a very strong motive to exaggerate and embellish. However, the report takes all their evidence at face value. ‘Mental illness’ is found to be almost universal in the migrant community, but there is no indication that Nauruans are similarly affected by life on the ‘Island of Despair.’

Consider the insistence of migrants to be filmed behind fencing when demonstrating, only to stroll out after the filming. This is blatantly calculated and dishonest – and obvious emotional blackmail. It is clearly in the greatest interests of migrants and activists to present as horrific a picture as possible of their situation. The fact that they do is sad, but ultimately not very surprising.

Point Two

The AI report does not take testimony from Nauruans , unless they are employed by service providers. Nauruans are blamed for causing virtually all violence. All the versions of assaults are those of migrants and no reasons are given for the genesis of the incidents.

Nauruans are blamed for most migrant children not attending their local school, because Nauruan teachers and students are cruel bullies. This is presented in the AI report as the denial of the migrants’ ‘right to education’.

There is much testimony from ‘service providers’ and migrants on school incidents (many of which could happen in any Australian school), but none from Nauruan teachers or students. Nauruan police are also not given a chance to give their versions of any incidents.

Refugee activists do not like to be accused of racism. However, this AI report makes so many generalizations about the culture and nature of Nauruan society that it opens itself widely to the accusation.

Point Three

There is plenty of testimony, and definite evidence of self-harm in the AI report. However, many would argue that this is simply not evidence of ‘torture’.

Self-inflicted harm is just that: self-inflicted. Readers of the AI report will have to judge for themselves whether self-harming is a desperate attempt to sway public opinion, or an unavoidable result of living on a tropical island. They also should ask this: If these incidents are caused by life on Nauru, then why are the Nauruans not self-harming or falling mentally ill, in large numbers? Claims of ‘mental illness’ are not unexpected.

Migrants have taken a decision to use people smugglers and have found that this has not resulted in their first choice of asylum country. This must be hard to deal with, and many are desperate to change the policy. Not surprisingly they will use any technique they can.

The AI report did not appear to get any migrant views on whether they cared about the inevitable drownings which would follow a policy change.

Finally, neither Waleed Aly nor Amnesty International praises Australia’s official refugee or immigration programs.

Australia has welcomed over 70 000 refugees through the United Nations Refugee Agency over the past five years. This is the highest per capita in the world. It has also recently agreed to take 12 000 refugees from Syria. Interestingly enough, there appears to be little or no ‘activist’ outrage against wealthy Gulf countries, who have taken no refugees at all over the past few years.

Waleed Aly is a brilliant, multi-talented journalist, lecturer, academic and presenter. However, he is also living proof of Australia’s openness to multi-culturalism and legal immigration. He lives in a country where nearly 30% of the population has been born overseas (from a large variety of cultures) This country also had a net migration figure of nearly 170 000 in 2015. This is not a callous society, nor one which is becoming ‘far-right’ (an epithet beloved of ‘refugee activists’)
The Australian government’s policy on migrants sent by people smugglers is firm, appropriate and necessary. To portray it as a ‘deliberate policy of cruelty and abuse’ or as ‘poisonous’ is simplistic, misleading, one-sided, and dangerous.