As a whistleblower on Australian refugee detention facility Manus Island argues, "It's not designed as a processing facility [for asylum seekers], it's designed as an experiment in the active creation of horror to deter people from trying in the first place," * Dr Richard McGrath heads back to help handle medical care at the sister facility at Christmas Island. But not before penning this guest post…
Last evening the building which houses the general practice where I work part-time was damaged by fire, not as extensively as some early reports claimed, but bad enough to close us down for a few weeks. Thankfully no-one was injured, and all staff and patients were evacuated without incident. The roof space was extensively burnt but several of us were able to walk through the place a few hours later and see for ourselves the relatively unscathed state of the consulting rooms. The central treatment bays and nursing clinic areas were the worst damaged by heat, water and smoke. The fire service believe it was probably caused by an electrical source of overheating – I really don't know. (Maybe it was all those lamps I had up in the ceiling over the cannabis plants, though I guess it's too early to tell yet.)
Thanks to those people who sent txt messages and emails of support and sympathy. As it happens, I will miss much of the rebuilding at Masterton Medical because I'm returning to Christmas Island in the next few weeks to assist in the care of refugees and asylum seekers there. This blog's editor likens the Australian immigrant detention centres to concentration camps. There is a grain of truth in that but the situation is complex, and I believe the Abbott government is not doing too bad a job.
In general, libertarians believe in open borders and free association, and so anyone who wants to immigrate to Australia should be allowed to do so. But should adherents of a death-cult religion (whose stated aim is to overrun infidel countries and claim them for Allah) be permitted to pour in freely until they form the majority of the population? I believe they would, given the chance.
And, having landed on Australian territory, should asylum seekers then be allowed to hook straight into the Australian welfare system?
In a libertarian nation, social welfare would be a voluntary act of compassion, and so these refugees would become recipients of charity. The state-run welfare system, on the other hand, relies on terrorist organisations such as our own Inland Revenue Department and the Australian Tax Office to fund their redistribution projects, and so the flow of money is involuntary rather than charitable.
One of the gripes I have with those who have landed on Christmas Island seeking settlement in Australia is that many of these people appear to be quite comfortably-off members of the middle class. They are seen by many across the ditch as queue jumpers, hoping to push in ahead of others who also wish to settle in Australia and are pursuing this objective via the normal channels.
Admittedly, many of these asylum seekers hail from countries where the state takes an unhealthy interest in the private lives of its citizens (Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan) or they are part of an ethnic minority targeted for violence (Sri Lankan Tamils). I believe many of them could make a good case for political refugee status. Others, I feel, are less deserving. Australia's Department of Immigration and Border Protection are charged with sorting out who the genuine political refugees are. I don't envy them their job, as some of the stories told by the asylum seekers of their maltreatment back home are not easy to listen to.
I believe fundamental reform needs to take place in Australia before the libertarian ideal of open borders could proceed peacefully. Firstly, there should be an end to state-run and coercively-financed social welfare. Secondly, the rule of law should be enforced firmly and equally, so that immigrants who break the laws are treated like anyone else and made to compensate their victims. Thirdly, there should be constitutional protection to maintain Australia as a liberal Western democracy, and prevent it becoming an Islamic Republic, or parts of it becoming Islamic ghettos where women are second-class citizens, gay people are hunted down and killed, and police officers fear to tread (as has happened in certain parts of the United Kingdom).
How do readers feel about the situation on Christmas Island, where the Australian navy is now turning refugee boats back to Indonesia, and where the detention centre population is being gradually shipped out to Manus Island (part of PNG) and to Nauru?
At the end of my first six-week deployment to Christmas Island I put my name next to those of several medical colleagues at the bottom of a ninety page document outlining concerns we had at the quality of medical treatment for some of the asylum seekers. Dr John-Paul Sanggaran deserves special mention as the lead author of this document, which was leaked to the press, who then used it to challenge cabinet minister Scott Morrison. Hopefully, changes have occurred since I left which will make the treatment of our patients there more humane and ethical.
I will report back upon my return in April.
[Pics from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC)]