24 May 2003

Ruddock's rules
From Immigration Minister Ruddock's interview with Kerry O'Brien:

KERRY O'BRIEN: Do you acknowledge that at least in a number of instances that self-harm was an act of desperation, not some cynical act to somehow try and fool us into accepting them but an act of desperation?

Do you accept that?

PHILIP RUDDOCK: It depends on what you mean by 'desperation', Kerry.

KERRY O'BRIEN: I mean in despair.

PHILIP RUDDOCK: If you were saying are they despairing that they may not have claims that would entitle them to refugee status and hope that by behaving that way they might influence the decision I think many people tried to do just that.

And that was the advice that I was receiving from people who independently went and sought to mediate and ascertain what the reasons were for the incidents that were occurring.

In Ruddock's world no-one ever suffers depression or despair and self-harm is all malingering to pressure the minister. It makes good rhetoric and gets gobbled up eagerly by the media chooks, but it's not good psychology and the entire policy is inconsistent with international practice. Given the atrocious situation reported by Four Corners it's amazing that his advisers have not already briefed him on the nature of despair. Despair is, after all, the cornerstone of his policy.

Human Rights Watch comments:

Australia is the only country to grant temporary status to refugees who have been through a full asylum determination system and who have been recognized as genuinely in need of protection for 1951 Refugee Convention reasons. Temporary Protection, as it is used in Europe and as permitted by various United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) ExCom1 Conclusions,2 is granted to asylum seekers as a group when they are fleeing an emergency that is self-evidently causing forced displacement or when the number of arriving asylum seekers threatens to overwhelm the administrative capacity of receiving states. In all other instances refugees are able to enjoy full and permanent protection after they have gone through the refugee determination process.

We are also the only country demanding that groups like the East Timorese return home and the only country imposing a blanket penalty on anyone stopping for 7 days in a third country.

Lastly, I think it's interesting one of Ruddock's favourite lines is that the issues raised on Four Corners are now only 'historical' because Woomera is closed. The same policy remains in force and the new detention centre is operated by the same company. Only the address and the spin has changed.

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