Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Refugees: What’s the problem?


Once again, the news that several human beings are heading down under with the express aim of making a new home for themselves somewhere in Australasia has talkback callers on both sides of the Tasman in a frenzy.

So what’s the problem?

Is New Zealand so small and our outlook so mean we would begrudge ten human beings the new life they seek in our land—ten people who will have demonstrated, if they succeed, more get up and go in their little fingers than most talkback callers have acquired over their whole lives?   Apparently so. 

Would NZers rather condemn these ten to death than offer them the chance of a new life here ? Apparently they would.

On days like this, I find myself ashamed to be a New Zealander.

Once again, just a very few people have revealed the xenophobic tribalism underneath the skin of so many Australians and New Zealanders who as recently as the Sydney Olympics and the Rugby World Cup were flatulently talking up their “friendliness” and their “hospitality.” What a crock.

Their xenophobia now lies exposed.

As does the cold inhumane heart of the welfare state.

Because it seems nobody wants these people down under.  They’d rather they just “go away.” Go where? Blank out. Seem the only place apparently for these human beings to “go” is to die.  For those eager to remove the welcome mat, this is what they’d like to blank out: the death sentence they wish to bestow on other human beings yearning to breathe free.

This is the sort of human beings they have become.

This is not a small problem.

People everywhere risk their lives to escape their impossible existences, and all around the world the barriers to them are up. People-smugglers 'assist' them, and the victims they smuggle are so desperate they willingly submit to the risks of dealing with thugs and swindlers, of suffocation in airtight, hermetically sealed containers, of setting sail on fragile craft, and of braving stormy and shark-filled waters. They subject themselves to unimaginable risks to escape intolerable lives, and so often are left to die like so much unwanted cattle.

How bad are people's lives that they risk suffocation, drowning and shark attacks to escape the horrors of their former homes? And what of our culture, our politicians, and ourselves when people risk their lives in this way, and we willingly condemn them for having the temerity to interrupt our own comfortable existence?

Many Australasians no longer value other human beings it seems—they are just so many problems they wish would go away. Wherefore this new inhumanity?

As author Robert Heinlein suggested, successful immigrants demonstrate just by their choice and gumption in choosing a new life that they are worthy of respect. So God damn you if the only two words you can find to put together when talking about people who leave their homelands to seek a better life for themselves and their families are ‘illegal aliens.’ Or ‘boat people.’

I submit the responsibility for this dark heart lies with the Welfare State and the tribal mentality it fosters. New Zealanders’ wish that these refugees would just 'go away' and stop bothering them exposes the dark underbelly at the heart of the Welfare State.

"How so?' you ask. "Isn't the Welfare State a model of benevolent charity?" It is not. It is the Welfare State that condemns these people to die.

A VISIT TO YOUR local W.I.N.Z. office is enough to tell you that by its very nature, the Welfare State dehumanises peopleviewing them as nothing other than either a mouth to feed or a wallet to plunder. What’s happening with the xenophobic anti-refugee outpouring is that even the people with the wallets can no longer see the world in any other way than one begging for their alms, and are naturally upset at the prospect of many more mouths being fed at their expense.

Reflect that the Welfare State is not voluntary charity, it is not any kind of charity at all. It is compulsion, forcing every person to be responsible for every other person whether they like it or not. And like it or not, those who pick up the cheque for New Zealand's welfare state resent that forced imposition. They submit begrudgingly to the moral cannibalism of being forced to be “their brother’s keeper,” but resist the imposition of new members to the tribe—and are blinded by the Welfare State mentality to the possibility that new New Zealanders who have braved many dangers to get here would more likely be producers, not parasites.

So, once again, the dehumanising moral bankruptcy at the heart of the Welfare State lies exposed on a small ship floating off Darwin—just as it was when 460 refugees on the Tampa lay floating off Christmas Island surrounded by Australian guns, Prime Ministerial invective, and the loudly-expressed wish by many Australians that their navy just get on and sink it. (It was then, with the Tampa, that the Welfare State acquired a new symbol: Australian commandos pointing guns at sick women and children.)

There is a better way to deal with immigrants and refugees than with guns and a death sentence.

Libertarians have always maintained that peaceful people should be able to cross borders freely as long as they forswear any claim on any existing welfare state--I suggest that this philosophy of libertarian self-responsibility offers a simple solution to the current impasse.

NEW ZEALAND CURRENTLY ACCEPTS 750 refugees annually, housing them, feeding them, and watering them - nannying them - to ready them for New Zealand life. Most refugees have already shown sufficient gumption to escape the horrors of their own homes, and most immigrants quickly demonstrate that such nannying is unnecessary by achieving such spectacular success in their new land it frequently shames their former hosts.

So why this enforced imposition on both the taxpayer and the immigrants? It's as if the government fears we might pick up diseases from them - 'diseases' perhaps like the hard work, enterprise, and initiative that successful immigrants so frequently display. To be sure, we must bar known criminals and terrorists, but that doesn’t necessitate such overly expensive and bureaucratic immigration procedures.

I say, why not simply let people look after them voluntarily?

This shouldn’t be difficult. Every time an issue like this comes to light, many charitable New Zealanders and Australians raise their voices in support of the embattled minority; so why not take these calls literally?

I suggest the easiest solution is for Prime Ministers Key and Gillard to announce that between them they will accept whoever arrives on our shores, but only as long as a sufficient number of charitable Australians and New Zealanders can be found to take full responsibility for them until they are on their feet. Ten people, in this case, who will offer their own voluntary welfare and 'naturalisation services' to help these people start their new life.

Who could possibly, or reasonably, object to that?

Finding a sufficient number should not be a problem. Even the numbers gleefully posted every week by xenophobes like new-Australian Andrew Bolt, who reckons Gillard’s Government has encouraged refugees to head towards Australasia, number only in their hundreds--a “flood” of 1500 souls at most trying to “pour” into a country of 20-million people and a thousand-million empty acres.

And given the initiative refugees will have already shown in getting down here, I would expect that getting on their feet will not take them very long.

This solution demonstrates the stark contrast between generosity and enforced charity, and the simple benevolence at the heart of the libertarian philosophy.

Compulsory 'charity' is a misnomer - it dehumanises both taxpayer and recipient. But when charity is voluntary, people are set free to be benevolent again.

The Welfare State is a killer for benevolence, for the human spirit, for open immigration, and a literal killer for immigrants and refugees braving dangerous waters and the integrity of unscrupulous people-smugglers.

Why not set these people free through the generosity of benevolent New Zealanders—while taking a good hard look at what the welfare state does to people.

And I suggest that the simple libertarian philosophy be adopted with all immigrants: that we allow all peaceful people to pass freely just as long as they make no claim at all on the welfare state.

Until it is completely dismantled, that is.



  1. Taito Phillip Field springs to mind in a convoluted sort of way.

  2. The greatest wave of voluntary emigration in history was that of tens of millions of Europeans between the mid-19th Century and the early 1920s. It is no surprise that their destination was the Land of the Free, the bastion of capitalism (at that time), America, which was able to absorb this huge influx of people with no need for any form of state welfare. The vision of the global Socialist, by contrast, is that you stay where you are put and do what you are told.

  3. nope- not so simple at all. Talking to Europeans they tell of ghettos of the North Africans with crime waves around their area and discordant cultural views.

    My daughter was walking home from the gym at Uni and a Muslim walked past and called her a slut. Sure, his view, but she should've stabbed him for it!

    Sorry, I'd say they should go to similar cultures. Let them escape Iran/Iraq/Pakistan/Afganistan to Malaysia or Indonesia. Why they would want to come to NZ or Aussie when it is so foreign to their culture and religeon suggests to me that there are other motives involved.

  4. @IH Stewart: I confess I could never see what Mr Field did wrong.

    @Kiwiwit: Precisely. Disugusting, isn't it.

    @KP: Your daughter was called a slut by a Muslim so we should let these Chinese refugees die.

    Yes, I can see your logic completely.

    Perhaps you coudl check your evidence on crime around the European "ghettoes" -- crime figures I've seen show the opposite of what your friends suggest.

    But if you're opposed to Iranians/Iraqis/Pakistanis/Afganistanis emigrating to your country of choice because they'll fill the country up with people you iwon't like (a country to which you've emigrated yourself, ironically), then presumably you would also advocate those Iranians/Iraqis/Pakistanis/Afganistanis already living there be banned from any further breeding, since there is after all no difference between numbers of people you don't like increasing because they fly there, sail there or come in through their mother's womb, right?

    That's where your logic is taking you, I'm afraid.

  5. I think KP's concerns, which I understand, are addressed by the two fundamental points accompanying PC's proposal, with one addition.

    1. Removing any claim on the welfare state by migrants (which raises the issue about how much tax they ought to pay). That means no state support for housing, income, healthcare, kids' education. The mass "welfare tourism" seen in the EU would be avoided.

    2. Allowing refugees in on the basis of sponsorship by existing citizens on a one for one basis for a year. That means those who care CAN do so, and help them, directly.

    I'd also add that anyone proved to have committed a serious criminal offence involving initiation of force (e.g. conviction for murder, assault, rape, theft/fraud) or of advancing activities that threaten the citizenry (e.g. Islamists), would also be excluded.

    If people have to come one-by-one matched by local citizens, then there isn't going to be anyone overwhelmed. Sure there will be people seeking such sponsorship actively, and middlemen trying to facilitate it, but in the NZ context it ought to work.

    It would take a lot to offset the current demographic breakdown of NZ, of which the most notable trends are continued growth in the Maori population and stagnation of the Pacific Islander population relatively speaking. It would appear the culture of NZ is being changed more by Maori fecundity and fertility than from foreigners. Bear in mind that you subsidise the locals breeding.

  6. My son plays in a football team with an Afghani refugee from The Tampa. He is a polite, articulate twenty year old who is studying at Uni. The issue here with any refugees is sorting the wheat from the chaff. That’s to say permitting productive immigrants entry, not allowing them access to long-term state welfare. Two of this group in Darwin I spotted were elderly – so who is going to support them when they get sick etc? Answer = you and me. What concerns me with this group is if the sole reason for fleeing China is religious oppression of Falun Gong then surely a more sympathetic, closer and safer destination would have been say Thailand? The idea of sponsorship appeals to me as it permits refugee advocates to put their money where their mouths are. We definitely need more immigration but I don’t see refugees being any more than part of token U.N quotas because we can’t as a country we can’t currently fiscally afford to support ourselves let alone them

  7. "Libertarians have always maintained that peaceful people should be able to cross borders freely as long as they forswear any claim on any existing welfare state..."

    Yes, because these 'refugees' are coming to NZ (whoops, they'll settle for Oz now) because they were being persecuted in Malaysia. And they had to bypass nearby Philippines and Indonesia and Singapore and Thailand and Brunei for the same reasons.

    What do NZ and Oz have that the above nations do not? A generous welfare system and first world pay (just). Hmmm.

    Flaw in your logic? If theye were *honestly* willing to waive rights to the welfare system, they would be going to closer nations that don't offer welfare like we do.

    That this is their goal is tacitly admitted by libertyscott above:
    "The mass "welfare tourism" seen in the EU would be avoided."

    @ Paul G - it's not about a refugee claimant being a nice fella, it's whether they have genuine reason to flee the country they were *last in* (not necessarily their nation of birth). In this case, Malaysia. Because otherwise, all they are is economic migrants trying to rort our immigration points system.

  8. Paul Goodsort. It must be nice to to be able to dismiss whole swathes of society so easily. I assume that had your refugee friend been disabled in some way that you'd have rejected them. Surely we accept refugees as an act of mercy rather than one of profit.

    In response to the article and those commenters who agree with its sentiments, I can agree with many of your ideas even if they are put forth in an overly melodramatic fashion.

    Refugees most definitely are worthy of our respect, as such i agree that they should not be forced into a dependency role (though I don't see how the state could be considered as doing this, refugees are not required to be dependent on the state in any where near the sense that they would be with private charity). I also agree that it is appalling that some would deny refuge on the grounds that the cost is too onerous on society. I would hope that only small proportion of society holds such a view (since when did talkback become the pulse of the nation). What the author seems to ignore however is that:

    1) People do not exist atomised units. Many are also accompanied by families or have families which they intend to relocate when it is safe to do so. These people would likely be excluded from resettlement or families broken up if personal charity was relied upon.

    2) A system of private charity would be very open to exploitation for private gain - Taito Phillip Field is a prime example of this though the exploitation could be on either side of the equation.

    3) State management of settlement ensures a certain level of wellbeing (though it could be better) and access to a vast amount of resources and people who can aid in the resettlement process. Lets not forget that many refugees suffer from PTSD and other mental or physical health problems, they are after all fleeing life threatening situations. Educational and linguistic help is also often needed. If we are to leave such things up to private charity I would be surprised if they were dealt with adequately.

    4) Dependency on the state is unfortunate, however, dependency on a specific individual has much stronger psychological implications.

    5) State sponsorship is at least bureaucratically impartial. This is not necessarily so for private citizens.

    6) Why think that this sort of charity will ever eventuate? We already have shortfalls in refugee funding now with nobody offering to help. What makes you think that this will change if govt had nothing to do with it?

    As far as I'm aware the main concern about the current refugees has more to do with their safety in crossing the Tasman and the fact that they'll be pushing others down the eligibility que. Its also good to remember that people are quite happy to risk the lives of others in order to make a quick buck. You note that refugees take tremendous risks, these risks are not always of their own making (smugglers are not so honest about the conditions of transit methinks). For the Aus and NZ govts encourage such endeavours seems more than a little irresponsible.


  9. If theye were *honestly* willing to waive rights to the welfare system, they would be going to closer nations that don't offer welfare like we do.

    given that the welfare system encourages the wrong type of immigration in the first place I don't see this a valid point.

    It's not the fault of the immigrant for choosing the destination but the fault of those who keep advocating for and justifying (as in your case) such a failed system and then complaining about people who coming over and using it. What liberty scott suggested is in fact a good idea.

  10. Great post Peter.

  11. PC - can you expand on the crime figures you've seen that do not point to African / Muslim refugees/immigrants etc. committing a disproportionate amount of crime in Europe/Scandanavia?

    Everything I've seen says they do. Unless it's been sanitized.


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