Australia subjects refugees to a cruel fate. US shouldn't follow.
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THE AUSTRALIAN DETENTION CA MPS on the tiny Micronesian islands of Nauru and Manus are, by all accounts, hell on earth.
Adult detainees have set themselves on fire, and children as young as 10 have repeatedly attempted suicide. Allegations of sexual assault and child abuse are rampant. Camp conditions are toxic, but health care has been denied to detainees. The government has banned journalists and human rights advocates. Thousands of citizens on the mainland have staged protests, to no avail.
As the Trump administration â" rooted from the start in xenophobia and enthnonationalism â" continues to bend toward authoritarianism, many concerned US citizens have looked to history for a blueprint. The ubiquity of the Holocaust in American culture makes it a go-to model of how a society turns to evil, and so many conversations about the excesses of the administration have invoked that horror as a measure for how bad things have, or have not yet, become.Advertisement
Weâve ar gued about whether or not the immigrant detention centers under construction can, or should, be compared to the concentration camps where the Nazi regime systematically murdered its victims. If you spend time in the left-leaning sphere of social media, youâve probably seen variations of historian Gregory Stantonâs â10 Stages of Genocideâ or Martin NiemÃ¶llerâs âFirst they came . . . â prose poem passed around. And those of us most disturbed by the presidentâs overtures to actual neo-Nazis have wondered aloud if, or when, the administration would start moving to dismantle the apparatus of democracy, revoke citizenship for people of color, and round up âundesirablesâ in our cities and towns.Get Truth & Consequences in your inbox: Michael Cohen's no-holds-barred look at the absurdities of this political moment. Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here
The administration has certainly feinted in that direction, with increasingly aggressive raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement on undocumented immigrants, plans to deny citizenship to legal residents who have legally used public assistance programs, and a task force to denaturalize immigrants who have already obtained citizenship.
But itâs not necessary for a government to turn to fascism or totalitarianism, or for it to prey on its own citizens, for it to establish a human rights abomination under authority of law. To understand the dangers of current American immigration policy, itâs not necessary to look all the way back to Germany in 1939. Australia in 2001 is a much better model.
Nauru, an impovershed island nation widely considered to be a client-state of Australia, was first established as a refugee center after more than 400 Afghan Hazara refugees were rescued from a sinking boat by a Norwegian freighter. In defiance of international law â" and in part to prop up a flagging reelection campaign â" Australiaâs prime minister, John Howard, refused to let the freighter deliver the refugees to its shores. Instead, he diverted them to hastily prepared camps on Nauru and later, on Papua New Guineaâs Manus Island.
The Nauru and Manus detention centers were shut down in 2007, but reopened in 2012 as refugees once more began heading toward Australia in boats. It has now outlasted several administrations and countless scandals. Children have been born in the camps, and grown up there.Advertisement
Despite revelations about horrors in the camps, Australiaâs policy has remained that no asylum seekers arriving by boat should be given entrance to the country. Rather, refugees collect in the misery of the camps. âThe camps were designed to be punitive,â writes the Guardianâs Ben Doherty, âand were widely promoted as a deterrent, to discourage anybody from seeking sanctuary in Australia by boat.â
And alth ough itâs legal to ask for asylum, Australian government officials ârefer to asylum seekers as âillegalsâ and describe offshore processing as âborder protection,â â Australian human rights lawyer Julian Burnside wrote in the Guardian.
Throughout all this, Australiaâs government has remained democratic. Fascism has not transformed daily life on the mainland, journalism has not been abolished, and Australian citizens have not been stripped of their rights and rounded up into camps. Yet once the detention camps came into existence, it became nearly impossible to eradicate them: Numerous protests have had no effect. And yet their government continues to perpetrate what one detainee, a Kurdish journalist, called a âplace beyond suffering.â
In the United States, the detention centers opened under the Obama administration and enlarged by the Trump administration are already showing signs of becoming the kind of hell that Nauru and Manus became. The Australi an camps are less well known in the United States than is Auschwitz, but we should be as vigilant against the former as the latter.Source: Google Australia | Netizen 24 Australia