Yep. The Australian government is going to send unaccompanied children (asylum seekers only, don’t worry about leaving your child in McDonalds when you take a trip to the washroom) to detention centres in Malaysia to discourage people smuggling to Australia.
First of all, what is an asylum seeker? An asylum seeker is simply another way of saying refugee, more narrowly defined by the United Nations as “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.” Whew.
I understand Australian immigration minister Chris Bowen’s concerns about people smuggling: it causes deaths, and ultimately puts Australians at a disadvantage. But must he put the lives of these vulnerable children at risk? As the article says, young children, especially girls (and women), are in great danger in Malaysian detention centers, where sexual harassment and violence are common. It’s trading the lives of minors with the benefits of Australians: which comes first?
Moreover, this plan may not successfully curb the problem of people smuggling into Australia. Suppose the smugglers had connections inside Australia to receive the children, or paid couples to do so. Would that work?
Okay, maybe not. But I still believe Bowen should investigate more into this problem before announcing such an inhumane policy. Yes, he’s sending a strong message now – not only to potential smugglers and refugees, but to the world.