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Scott Morrison may be washing his hands of those on Manus and Nauru, but was tied to their fate as early as 2014.
Today, in the wake of the medevac bill erased from our options, Scott Morrison closed the door to Australia, but left it ajar to New Zealand, an action clearly washing his hands of those who travelled to our country in hope of asylum.
Morrison said: “The government’s policy is to ensure that we seek to resettle people who are on Nauru. So we will continue to use the arrangements that we have in place to be able to resettle people and that is the assurance that we have provided.”
Back in July, he took aim at the Labor Party, saying that it was their fault that people were languishing on Manus and Nauru. That it was their policies that caused Australia’s hardline stance on refugees and asylum seekers.
This inference is not wrong. The Rudd government is the one who shamefully put into place the policies that have guided this country’s dealings with desperate people coming on boats for six years.
“As of today, asylum seekers who come here by boat without a visa will never be settled in Australia,” Mr Rudd said in 2013. It was then considered the “hardest line” a Labor prime minister had taken against asylum seekers. However, it is absolutely worth noting that he was more or less echoing John Howard’s sentiments from twelve years prior, when he said to the press gallery in 2001, “those people will never set foot on Australian soil – never!”
Yes, our policies – the idea for which was championed by the second-longest serving Australian PM and put into place by a Labor PM – put people in danger. But that doesn’t mean that Scott Morrison is any less to blame on that front. He especially cannot throw the blame at Labor when he has done everything in his power to keep things as they are.
He can’t cast aspersions when he clearly agrees with the policy.
The refugees were given an “ultimatum”, that they would not be resettled in Australia or a third country, and that the department would work to “get them home safely”, back to a country in the midst of a brutal conflict that would surely see these people killed.
More than that, when ScoMo was our Immigration Minister, he went one step further in endangering the lives of Syrian refugees fleeing the bloody civil war in their nation. This is back in 2014 and Scott Morrison promised to resettle 4,400 of them. By then, the war had already claimed over 100,000 lives and 1,100 coming to Australia was seen as a “crisis”, compared to the 2.56 million people who were then fleeing.
Unclassified emails showed that the refugees were given an “ultimatum”, that they would not be resettled in Australia or a third country, and that the department would work to “get them home safely”, in the words of the then-immigration department lead on Manus Island, Katrina Neuss.
In the midst of a brutal conflict that would surely see these people killed if they returned, Australia wanted to do to them what the USA did to the MS St Louis – turn them back. This essentially constitutes a crime against humanity, denying people their basic human right of refuge.
Mr Morrison refused to answer questions about it at the time, saying that “the Australian government is dedicated to ensuring its humanitarian programme reaches those who need it most”, which is – simply put – untrue. Those who need it most were the people who arrived, desperate and scared, by boat.
The government tried to tell us that it was “protecting lives at sea” by refusing them entry. Stopping the boats meant fewer deaths in the ocean, but what was left unsaid was that those deaths were just moved back to these peoples’ war-torn homelands.
Morrison cannot dream of standing on moral high ground when the Immigration Department, under his guidance, wanted to send frightened families to their deaths, rather than even consider settling them in Australia.
If he wants to cast stones at the Labor party for these immigrations policies – stones which are rightfully thrown – then he must also accept that his policies are no better by comparison.